High-speed electronic devices rely on short carrier transport times, which are usually achieved by decreasing the channel length and/or increasing the carrier velocity. Ideally, the carriers enter into a ballistic transport regime in which they are not scattered1. However, it is difficult to achieve ballistic transport in a solid-state medium because the high electric fields used to increase the carrier velocity also increase scattering2. Vacuum is an ideal medium for ballistic transport, but vacuum electronic devices commonly suffer from low emission currents and high operating voltages. Here, we report the fabrication of a low-voltage field-effect transistor with a vertical vacuum channel (channel length of ~20 nm) etched into a metal–oxide–semiconductor substrate. We measure a transconductance of 20 nS µm–1, an on/off ratio of 500 and a turn-on gate voltage of 0.5 V under ambient conditions. Coulombic repulsion in the two-dimensional electron system3 at the interface between the oxide and the metal or the semiconductor reduces the energy barrier to electron emission, leading to a high emission current density (~1 × 105 A cm–2) under a bias of only 1 V. The emission of two-dimensional electron systems into vacuum channels could enable a new class of low-power, high-speed transistors.
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- Supplementary information (2.10 MB)