Madison firm aims to revolutionize electronics by replacing silicon

Katy Jinkins, CEO and cofounder of SixLine Semiconductor, shows a silicon piece that holds millions of carbon nanotubes. The darker purple area is where the nanotubes are concentrated. ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ

Katy Jinkins, CEO and cofounder of SixLine Semiconductor, shows a silicon piece that holds millions of carbon nanotubes. The darker purple area is where the nanotubes are concentrated. ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ

 

In a lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Katy Jinkins typically starts her day at a filing cabinet full of thin, purple silicon disks that reflect green in the light.

She breaks the disks, about the size of a CD, into smaller pieces for her research team’s efforts to ensure computer chips can keep up with technological innovations happening faster than ever before and the increasing need for energy sustainability.

Jinkins is specifically focused on improving semiconductors, the base of chips, which are essential to wireless communication like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and 5G. Semiconductors are used in a wide variety of other ways, such as artificial intelligence and medicine, too. They are the foundation of electronics in an era where everything is an e-something: e-watch, e-washing machine, EV.

Most semiconductors are made with silicon. Jinkins is exploring whether alternative materials could replace silicon, “revolutionizing electronics” globally and expanding Madison’s economic footprint in the tech industry.

“I’ve always been really passionate about this type of work because I see the large potential for impact in computing and in electronics,” said Jinkins, cofounder and CEO of SixLine Semiconductor.

Jinkins wants to grow the adoption of carbon nanomaterials in semiconductor electronics. A nanomaterial is about 100,000 times thinner than a human eyelash. Jinkins said one type of carbon nanomaterial, known as carbon nanotubes, can move electricity faster than silicon on semiconductors, improving performance for electronics and other devices.

“You can only go so far with current materials,” Jinkins said.

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