Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Nanometre-thin indium tin oxide for advanced high-performance electronics


Although indium tin oxide (ITO) is widely used in optoelectronics due to its high optical transmittance and electrical conductivity, its degenerate doping limits exploitation as a semiconduction material. In this work, we created short-channel active transistors based on an ultra-thin (down to 4 nm) ITO channel and a high-quality, lanthanum-doped hafnium oxide dielectric of equivalent oxide thickness of 0.8 nm, with performance comparative to that of existing metal oxides and emerging two-dimensional materials. Short-channel immunity, with a subthreshold slope of 66 mV per decade, off-state current <100 fA μm–1 and on/off ratio up to 5.5 × 109, was measured for a 40-nm transistor. Logic inverters working in the subthreshold regime exhibit a high gain of 178 at a low-supply voltage of 0.5 V. Moreover, radiofrequency transistors, with as-measured cut-off frequency fT and maximum oscillation frequency fmax both >10 GHz, have been demonstrated. The unique wide bandgap and low dielectric constant of ITO provide prospects for future scaling below the 5-nm regime for advanced low-power electronics.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: Material characterization of thin ITO film.
Fig. 2: Device structure and direct current electrical characteristics.
Fig. 3: Off-state and on-state performance of ITO transistors.
Fig. 4: Logic inverters based on ITO transistors with high gain.
Fig. 5: High performance of RF transistors based on ITO.

Data availability

The data supporting the figures within this paper are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


  1. Franklin, A. D. Nanomaterials in transistors: from high-performance to thin-film applications. Science 349, aab2750 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Cao, W., Kang, J. H., Sarkar, D., Liu, W. & Banerjee, K. 2D semiconductor FETs—projections and design for sub-10 nm VLSI. IEEE Trans. Electron Devices 62, 3459–3469 (2015).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Desai, S. B. et al. MoS2 transistors with 1-nanometer gate lengths. Science 354, 99–102 (2016).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Wu, Y. et al. High-frequency, scaled graphene transistors on diamond-like carbon. Nature 472, 74–78 (2011).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Myny, K. The development of flexible integrated circuits based on thin-film transistors. Nat. Electron. 1, 30–39 (2018).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Street, R. A. Thin-film transistors. Adv. Mater. 21, 2007–2022 (2009).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Fortunato, E., Barquinha, P. & Martins, R. Oxide semiconductor thin-film transistors: a review of recent advances. Adv. Mater. 24, 2945–2986 (2012).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Shao, Y., Xiao, X., Wang, Y., Liu, Y. & Zhang, S. D. Anodized ITO thin-film transistors. Adv. Funct. Mater. 24, 4170–4175 (2014).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Hamberg, I. & Granqvist, C. G. Evaporated Sn-doped In2O3 films: basic optical properties and applications to energy-efficient windows. J. App. Phys. 60, R123–R160 (1986).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Kim, H. et al. Effect of film thickness on the properties of indium tin oxide thin films. J. Appl. Phys. 88, 6021–6025 (2000).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Kim, H. et al. Electrical, optical, and structural properties of indium-tin-oxide thin films for organic light-emitting devices. J. Appl. Phys. 86, 6451–6461 (1999).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Granqvist, C. G. & Hultåker, A. Transparent and conducting ITO films: new developments and applications. Thin Solid Films 411, 1–5 (2002).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Wu, S. H. et al. Performance boost of crystalline In-Ga-Zn-O material and transistor with extremely low leakage for IoT normally-off CPU application. In VLSI Circuits, 2017 Symposium T166–T167 (IEEE, 2017).

  14. Lyu, R. J., Shie, B. S., Lin, H. C., Li, P. W. & Huang, T. Y. Downscaling metal-oxide thin-film transistors to sub-50 nm in an exquisite film-profile engineering approach. IEEE Trans. Electron Devices 64, 1069–1075 (2017).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Matsuda, S. et al. 30-nm-channel-length c-axis aligned crystalline In-Ga-Zn-O transistors with low off-state leakage current and steep subthreshold characteristics. In VLSI Circuits, 2015 Symposium T216–T217 (IEEE, 2015).

  16. Lin, H. C., Shie, B. S. & Huang, T. Y. 100-nm IGZO thin-film transistors with film profile engineering. IEEE Trans. Electron. Devices 61, 2224–2227 (2014).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Lyu, R. J. et al. Film profile engineering (FPE): a new concept for manufacturing of short-channel metal oxide TFTs. In IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) 11.2.1–11.2.4 (IEEE, 2013).

  18. Xiong, X. et al. High performance black phosphorus electronic and photonic devices with HfLaO dielectric. IEEE Electron. Dev. Lett. 39, 127–130 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Si, M. W., Yang, L. M., Du, Y. C. & Ye, P. D. Black phosphorus field-effect transistor with record drain current exceeding 1 A/mm. In 75th Annual Device Research Conference 1–2 (IEEE, 2017).

  20. Li, T. et al. High field transport of high performance black phosphorus transistors. Appl. Phys. Lett. 110, 163507 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Liu, Y. et al. Pushing the performance limit of sub-100 nm molybdenum disulfide transistors. Nano Lett. 16, 6337–6342 (2016).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. Nourbakhsh, A., et al. 15-nm channel length MoS2 FETs with single-and double-gate structures. In VLSI Circuits, 2015 Symposium T28–T29, IEEE (2015).

  23. Chen, C. D. et al. Integrating poly-silicon and InGaZnO thin-silm transistors for CMOS inverters. IEEE Trans. Electron Devices 64, 3668–3671 (2017).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. Alshammari, F. H., Hota, M. K., Wang, Z., Al-jawhari, H. & Alshareef, H. N. Atomic-layer-deposited SnO2 as gate electrode for indium-free transparent electronics. Adv. Electron. Mater. 3, 1700155 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Lee, S. & Nathan, A. Subthreshold Schottky-barrier thin-film transistors with ultralow power and high intrinsic gain. Science 54, 302–304 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Li, Y. V., Ramirez, J. I., Sun, K. & Jackson, T. N. Low-voltage double-gate ZnO thin-film transistor circuits. IEEE Electron. Dev. Lett. 34, 891–893 (2013).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  27. Yin, H. X. et al. High performance low voltage amorphous oxide TFT enhancement/depletion inverter through uni-/bi-layer channel hybrid integration. In IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) 1–4 (IEEE, 2009).

  28. Huang, M. Q. et al. Multifunctional high-performance Van der Waals heterostructures. Nat. Nanotechnol. 12, 1148–1154 (2017).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  29. Dai, Z., Wang, Z., He, X., Zhang, X.-X. & Alshareef, H. N. Large-area chemical vapor deposited MoS2 with transparent conducting oxide contacts toward fully transparent 2D electronics. Adv. Funct. Mater. 27, 1703119 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Zhao, M. et al. Large-scale chemical assembly of atomically thin transistors and circuits. Nat. Nanotechnol. 11, 954–959 (2016).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  31. Pu, J. et al. Highly flexible and high-performance complementary inverters of large-area transition metal dichalcogenide monolayers. Adv. Mater. 28, 4111–4119 (2016).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  32. Yu, L. et al. High-performance WSe2 complementary metal oxide semiconductor technology and integrated circuits. Nano Lett. 15, 4928–4934 (2015).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  33. Wang, H. C., Lin, C. K., Chiu, H. C. & Hsuelr, K. P. ZnO based thin-film transistor with high-κ gadolinium and praseodymium oxide as gate dielectric. In IEEE International Conference on Electron Devices and Solid-State Circuits 205–208 (IEEE, 2009).

  34. Su, L.-Y. & Huang, J. Demonstration of radio-frequency response of amorphous IGZO thin film transistors on the glass substrate. Solid State Electron. 104, 122–125 (2015).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  35. Mehlman, Y., Afsar, Y., Verma, N., Wagner, S. & Sturm, J. C. Self-aligned ZnO thin-film transistors with 860 MHz fT and 2 GHz fmax for large-area applications. In 75th Annual Device Research Conference 1–2 (IEEE, 2017).

  36. Wang, Y. M. et al. Amorphous-InGaZnO thin-film transistors operating beyond 1 GHz achieved by optimizing the channel and gate dimensions. IEEE Trans. Electron. Dev. 65, 1377–1382 (2018).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  37. Bayraktaroglu, B., Leedy, K. & Neidhard, R. Microwave ZnO thin-film transistors. IEEE Electron. Dev. Lett. 29, 1024–1026 (2008).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  38. Bayraktaroglu, B., Leedy, K. & Neidhard, R. High-frequency ZnO thin-film transistors on Si substrates. IEEE Electron. Dev. Lett. 30, 946–948 (2009).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  39. Bayraktaroglu, B. & Leedy, K. Ordered nanocrystalline ZnO films for high speed and transparent thin film transistors. In 11th IEEE Conference on Nanotechnology 1450–1455 (IEEE, 2011).

  40. Wang, H. et al. Black phosphorus radio-frequency transistors. Nano Lett. 14, 6424–6429 (2014).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  41. Chowdhury, S. F., Yogeesh, M. N., Banerjee, S. K. & Akinwande, D. Black phosphorous thin-film transistor and RF circuit applications. IEEE Electron. Dev. Lett. 37, 449–451 (2016).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  42. Sanne, A. et al. Record fT, fmax, and GHz amplification in 2-dimensional CVD MoS2 embedded gate FETs. In Circuits and Systems (ISCAS), 2017 IEEE International Symposium 1–4 (IEEE, 2017).

  43. Sanne, A. et al. Radio frequency transistors and circuits based on CVD MoS2. Nano Lett. 15, 5039–5045 (2015).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  44. Gao, Q. et al. Scalable high performance radio frequency electronics based on large domain bilayer MoS2. Nat. Commun. 9, 4778 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. 2003 international technology roadmap for semiconductors. SIA (2003).

  46. 2007 international technology roadmap for semiconductors. SIA (2007).

  47. Barral, V. et al. Strained FDSOI CMOS technology scalability down to 2.5 nm film thickness and 18 nm gate length with a TiN/HfO2 gate stack. In IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) 61–64 (IEEE, 2007).

  48. Yan, R. H., Ourmazd, A. & Lee, K. F. Scaling the Si MOSFET: from bulk to SOI to bulk. IEEE Trans. Electron. Devices 39, 1704–1710 (1992).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  49. Auth, C. P. & Plummer, J. D. Scaling theory for cylindrical, fully-depleted, surrounding-gate MOSFET’s. IEEE Electron. Dev. Lett. 18, 74–76 (1997).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Sell, B. et al. 22FFL: a high performance and ultra low power FinFET technology for mobile and RF applications. In IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) 29.4.1–29.4.4 (IEEE, 2017).

  51. Sze, S. M. & Ng, K. K. Physics of Semiconductor Devices (Wiley, 2006).

Download references


This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant nos. 61574066 and 61874162), the 111 Project (no. B18001) and the Strategic Priority Research Programme of Chinese Academy of Sciences (grant no. XDB30000000). The authors thank the staff at the Center of Micro-fabrication and Characterization of Wuhan National Laboratory for Optoelectronics, and Huazhong University of Science and Technology Analytical and Testing Center, for support with the RF magnetron sputtering system, electron-beam lithography, electron-beam evaporation and transmission electron microscopy and ultraviolet-visible spectrophotometer measurements; and M. Huang for useful discussions.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



Y.W. proposed and supervised the project. S.L. and M.W. fabricated the devices. S.L. performed morphology and electrical measurements. S.L., M.T., Q.G. and T.L. performed the RF characterizations. S.L. and Q.H. discussed the device designs. S.L., X.L. and Y.W. analysed the data. S.L. and Y.W. co-wrote the paper. All authors contributed to discussions on the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yanqing Wu.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Sections 1–5, Supplementary Figs. 1–40, Supplementary Tables 1–7 and supplementary refs. 1–74.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Li, S., Tian, M., Gao, Q. et al. Nanometre-thin indium tin oxide for advanced high-performance electronics. Nat. Mater. 18, 1091–1097 (2019).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing