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Flashy Transistors: Electronic workhorses also shed light

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9:36am, January 7, 2004

Researchers have discovered that the transistor, long the star of electronics, has a yet-untapped talent–emitting light.

With that newfound capability, the transistor could also become a stellar device for optical uses, such as computer displays, high-speed telecommunications, and light-based microcircuits, says Milton Feng of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Feng specializes in the world's fastest transistors, which are called heterojunction bipolar transistors. These devices pass large flows of electric current through small regions of a microchip.

Developers of bipolar transistors have long been aware that the current flows must generate some light, comments Russell D. Dupuis of the Georgia Instit

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