New Microcapacitors Revolutionize On-Chip Energy Storage

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UC Berkeley have developed “microcapacitors” that significantly improve on-chip energy storage. These capacitors, made from engineered thin films of hafnium oxide and zirconium oxide, utilize negative capacitance materials to store more energy than conventional capacitors. Published in Nature, the study demonstrates that these microcapacitors achieve nine times higher energy density and 170 times higher power density compared to the best current electrostatic capacitors.

Capacitors, which store energy in an electric field between two metallic plates, can deliver power quickly and have longer lifespans than batteries but typically suffer from low energy densities. The researchers overcame this by integrating atomically thin layers of aluminum oxide with HfO2-ZrO2 films to create a material that can be easily polarized by a small electric field, enabling thicker films while retaining desirable properties.

The breakthrough allows for seamless integration of energy storage and power delivery on microchips, potentially revolutionizing microdevices such as IoT, edge computing systems, and AI processors. The team is now focusing on scaling up the technology and further improving the films’ negative capacitance.