Metal-Air Transistors: Semiconductor-Free Field-Emission Air-Channel Nanoelectronics

Shruti Nirantar, Taimur Ahmed, Guanghui Ren, Philipp Gutruf, Chenglong Xu, Madhu Bhaskaran, Sumeet Walia, Sharath Sriram

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Scattering-free transport in vacuum tubes has always been superior to solid-state transistors. It is the advanced fabrication with mass production capability at low cost which drove solid-state nanoelectronics. Here, we combine the best of vacuum tubes with advanced nanofabrication technology. We present nanoscale, metal-based, field emission air channel transistors. Comparative analysis of tungsten-, gold-, and platinum-based devices is presented. Devices are fabricated with electron beam lithography, achieving channel lengths less than 35 nm. With this small channel length, vacuum-like carrier transport is possible in air under room temperature and pressure. Source and drain electrodes have planar, symmetric, and sharp geometry. Because of this, devices operate in bidirection with voltages <2 V and current values in few tens of nanoamperes range. The experimental data shows that influential operation mechanism is Fowler-Nordheim tunnelling in tungsten and gold devices, while Schottky emission in platinum device. The presented work enables a technology where metal-based switchable nanoelectronics can be created on any dielectric surface with low energy requirements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7478-7484
Number of pages7
JournalNano Letters
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 12 2018


  • Air-channel transistor
  • field emission
  • metal transistors
  • semiconductor-free nanoelectronics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering


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