Future Microchips: Microcapacitors with Negative Capacitance Boost Power by 170 Times, New York, NY 10001

In the quest to create more compact and energy-efficient devices, researchers are focusing on integrating energy storage systems directly onto microchips. This approach aims to minimize energy loss during transfer between components. Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, have developed “microcapacitors” to address this issue.

These new capacitors are crafted from thin films of hafnium oxide and zirconium oxide, using materials and manufacturing methods already employed in chip production. What sets these microcapacitors apart is their ability to store significantly more energy, thanks to the use of materials with negative capacitance.

Capacitors are fundamental components in electrical circuits, storing energy in the electric field between two metal plates separated by a dielectric. They can release energy quickly and have a longer lifespan compared to batteries. However, traditional capacitors have low energy density, limiting their use in high-power devices.

Researchers have overcome these limitations by developing thin HfO2-ZrO2 films with negative capacitance. By optimizing the composition, they achieved easy polarization of the material with even a small electric field. To increase the capacitance of the films, the team added atomically thin layers of aluminum oxide between several layers of HfO2-ZrO2, allowing them to increase the film thickness to 100 nm while maintaining the desired properties.

These films were integrated into three-dimensional microcapacitor structures, achieving record-breaking performance: energy density nine times higher and power density 170 times higher than the best electrostatic capacitors. Such advancements open new possibilities for miniaturizing energy storage systems in microdevices, including Internet of Things (IoT) devices, edge computing systems, and AI processors.

The next step for the researchers is to scale the technology and integrate it into fully functional microchips, further enhancing the negative capacitance properties of the films.

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