Analogue switches made from boron nitride monolayers for application in 5G and terahertz communication systems

Abstract

Hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) has a large bandgap, high phonon energies and an atomically smooth surface absent of dangling bonds. As a result, it has been widely used as a dielectric to investigate electron physics in two-dimensional heterostructures and as a dielectric in the fabrication of two-dimensional transistors and optoelectronic devices. Here we show that hBN can be used to create analogue switches for applications in communication systems across radio, 5G and terahertz frequencies. Our approach relies on the non-volatile resistive switching capabilities of atomically thin hBN. The switches are composed of monolayer hBN sandwiched between two gold electrodes and exhibit a cutoff-frequency figure of merit of around 129 THz with a low insertion loss (≤0.5 dB) and high isolation (≥10 dB) from 0.1 to 200 GHz, as well as a high power handling (around 20 dBm) and nanosecond switching speeds, metrics that are superior to those of existing solid-state switches. Furthermore, the switches are 50 times more efficient than other non-volatile switches in terms of a d.c. energy-consumption metric, which is an important consideration for ubiquitous mobile systems. We also illustrate the potential of the hBN switches in a communication system with an 8.5 Gbit s–1 data transmission rate at 100 GHz with a low bit error rate under 10−10.

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Fig. 1: Device structure and material characterization.
Fig. 2: High-frequency performance of hBN non-volatile switch.
Fig. 3: Data communication performance.
Fig. 4: Signal power handling of monolayer hBN RF switches.
Fig. 5: Thermal mapping images and simulation.

Data availability

The data that support the plots within this paper and other finding of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

Change history

  • 03 June 2020

    In the version of this Article originally published, the section headings were displayed as subsection headings by mistake; this has now been corrected. All versions of the Article have now been updated.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported in part by the Office of Naval Research grant N00014-20-1-2104, the National Science Foundation (NSF) grant no. 1809017 and Engineering Research Center Cooperative Agreement no. EEC-1160494. D.A. acknowledges the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) through the Army Research Office Award no. W911NF-16-1-0277. The fabrication was partly done at the Texas Nanofabrication Facility supported by NSF grant NNCI-1542159. hBN samples were kindly provided by Grolltex, Inc. The characterization part of this work was partly supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the phase of the Graphene Flagship GrapheneCore2 785219, by an ANR TERASONIC grant (17-CE24) and by the CPER Photonics for Society, the Hauts-de-France regional council and the TERIL-WAVES project (I-Site ULNE and MEL).

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Contributions

M.K. performed material transfer, characterization, device fabrication, low-frequency measurements and COMSOL simulation. E.P. contributed to high frequency, high power and thermal measurements. G.D. and E.P. conducted eye diagrams and BER measurements. R.G., X.W. and J.C.L. contributed to the development of hBN as a memory device. M.K., E.P. and D.A. analysed the electrical data and characteristics. All the authors contributed to the article based on the draft written by M.K., E.P. and D.A. H.H. and D.A. initiated and supervised the collaborative research.

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Correspondence to Deji Akinwande.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figures 1–9, Supplementary Note 1 and 2, and Supplementary Table 1.

Supplementary Video 1

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Kim, M., Pallecchi, E., Ge, R. et al. Analogue switches made from boron nitride monolayers for application in 5G and terahertz communication systems. Nat Electron (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41928-020-0416-x

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