The vast majority of modern microelectronic devices rely on carriers within semiconductors due to their integrability. Therefore, the performance of these devices is limited due to natural semiconductor properties such as band gap and electron velocity. Replacing the semiconductor channel in conventional microelectronic devices with a gas or vacuum channel may scale their speed, wavelength and power beyond what is available today. However, liberating electrons into gas/vacuum in a practical microelectronic device is quite challenging. It often requires heating, applying high voltages, or using lasers with short wavelengths or high powers. Here, we show that the interaction between an engineered resonant surface and a low-power infrared laser can cause enough photoemission via electron tunnelling to implement feasible microelectronic devices such as transistors, switches and modulators. The proposed photoemission-based devices benefit from the advantages of gas-plasma/vacuum electronic devices while preserving the integrability of semiconductor-based devices.
Forati, E., Dill, T. J., Tao, A. R., & Sievenpiper, D. (2016). Photoemission-based microelectronic devices. Nature Communications, 7. https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms13399