Research Topics

Our Nanolab team focuses on micro/nano-electronics research, particularly in: energy-efficient devices for low power electronics, Edge AI and IoT sensors for real-time small-foot-print applications, phase change and ferroelectric materials for RF and neuromorphic computing, and novel silicon spin qubit architectures for quantum computing.

We prioritize sustainability of our technologies through (1) energy efficiency, (2) use of abundant materials, and (3) non-toxic fabrication processes.

Energy Efficient Devices

Our Nanolab team has made groundbreaking contributions to tunnel FETs, covering topics like length scaling, threshold voltage definition, local tensile strain effects, and nonlinear output characteristics. We have initiated key research projects in Europe with industrial and academic partners, such as the STEEPER and E2SWITCH projects. In 2007, we demonstrated the benefits of high-k gate stacks in double-gate tunnel FETs. Our work includes achievements like sub-60mV/dec slopes in organic ferroelectric gate stack FETs (IEDM 2008) and S-shape polarization in NC-FETs (IEDM 2010), leading to tunable intrinsic gain. Professor Ionescu authored the most cited review paper on tunnel FETs in Nature 2011 and proposed the first roadmaps for tunnel FETs at IEDM 2012. In 2012, our group proposed the concept of a millivolt Density-of-States Switch, known as Electron-Hole Bilayer Tunnel FET. Our contributions have been recognized with awards like the Keynote Plenary at IEDM and the 2017 Electron Devices Society George E. Smith Award for our work on Negative Capacitance in tunnel FETs and MOSFETs.

Prof. Ionescu’s group in the NEMS field has introduced revolutionary hybrid devices that merge solid-state components with nano-electro-mechanical parts. We expanded Nathanson’s resonant gate FET to new forms and uses, from abrupt switching to NEM memory and resonators. We also pioneered the multi-gate vibrating-body FET concept, and our group created the first active MEM resonator, which was patented and recognized by EE-Times in December 2008 as a crucial energy-efficient device. At IEDM 2009, we presented self-oscillations in VB-FETs. This platform supported projects like NEMSIC for integrated gas sensing and nanotechnology for early cancer detection. In 2015, our work on liquid gate silicon FinFETs received a Best Paper Award at ULIS 2013 and introduced the idea of ‘Sensing with Computing Technology,’ highlighting sensitivity advantages from ultra-low subthreshold slopes.

In 2016, Prof. Ionescu was awarded an Advanced ERC Grant from the European Research Council for his project, “Milli-Tech,” aimed at developing 100 millivolt switches and sensors for the Internet of Things. The project focuses on creating steep slope switches using new device physics and concepts in emerging 2D materials to operate below 100 millivolts with a subthreshold slope below 10mV/decade, surpassing the thermionic limit of MOSFETs and advancing beyond CMOS technology. This technology platform, known as ‘millivolt technology,’ targets low-power digital and sensing/analog functions to reduce energy consumption by a factor of 100x and enable super-sensitive sensors for the Internet of Everything (IoE).

In 2017, Prof. Ionescu became the scientific coordinator of the FET Open project, “Phase-Change Materials and Switches,” collaborating with partners across Europe to develop energy-efficient Beyond-CMOS switches. Our collaborators are: AMO GMBH Germany, IBM RESEARCH GMBH, Switzerland, MAX PLANCK, Germany, THALES SA, France, UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE.

The proposal aimed to meet the demand for enhanced energy efficiency and expanded capabilities by developing novel solid-state Beyond-CMOS switches. These switches leverage abrupt phase-change phenomena (Metal-Insulator-Transition – MIT) in materials and operate at temperatures suitable for electronic circuits and systems, showcasing improved performance, energy efficiency, and scalability. The project explores phase-change materials like VO2, creating three-terminal electronic switches with deep-sub-thermionic average slopes (<10mV/decade at room temperature) and operating at sub-0.5V voltage supply. The research spans from novel materials to device architectures and includes applications in logic devices, reconfigurable RF circuits, and neuromorphic computation.

Quantum Electronics

 In 2020, SNF has confirmed the funding of a new NCCR on Quantum Computing, entitled SPIN, aiming at developing silicon spin qubits for a fully integrated quantum computing processor. Our research focuses on the study of Single-Electron-Transistors and the integration of magnetic materials on silicon CMOS to boost the figures-of-merit of electron spin qubits. Scalability of devices and addressability of single spin resonance are addressed with novel architectures based on Fully Depleted Silicon-On-Insulator (FD-SOI). Nanolab is one of the project partners of this very ambitious research that involves the University of Basel (as project leader), ETHZ, EPFL and IBM Research Zürich.

Personalized Healthcare

In the currently running FET Proactive DIGIPREDICT project we proposed the first of its kind digital twin to predict the progression of disease and the need for early intervention in infectious and cardiovascular diseases. A digital twin is a digital representation of an object or process from the real world in the digital world – and more specifically for the case of DIGIPREDICT – of a patient. The project combines the latest advances in digital biomarkers, organ-on-chip (OoC) and artificial intelligence at the edge, and aims to build a new interdisciplinary community in Europe focused on digital twins.

The developed system will provide medical doctors with a unique digital tool for early prediction of potential serious complications in COVID-19 patients. Beyond COVID-19, the system promises to also improve the prevention, diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of cardiovascular disease and detect the potential onset of inflammatory disease.

This multi- and cross-disciplinary project combines scientific excellence with engineering know-how, and leverage the expertise of doctors, biologists, electrical engineers, computer scientists, signal-processing engineers, and social scientists from all across Europe.