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The search for ever higher frequency information processing has become an area of intense research activity within the micro, nano, and optoelectronics communities. Compared to conventional semiconductor-based diffusive transport electron devices, electron tunneling devices provide significantly faster response times due to near-instantaneous tunneling that occurs at sub-femtosecond timescales. As a result, the enhanced performance of electron tunneling devices is demonstrated, time and again, to reimagine a wide variety of traditional electronic devices with a variety of new “lightwave electronics” emerging, each capable of reducing the electron transport channel transit time down to attosecond timescales. In response to unprecedented rapid progress within this field, here the current state-of-the-art in electron tunneling devices is reviewed, current challenges and opportunities are highlighted, and possible future research directions are identified.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2101449
JournalAdvanced Materials
Issue number35
Early online date8 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge funding from the National Key R&D Program of China (Grant No. 2016YFA0202000), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 51972072, 52072084, 51925203 and 91833303), the Key Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. ZDBS‐SSW‐JSC002), CAS Interdisciplinary Innovation Team (Grant No. JCTD‐2018‐03), the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant Nos. XDB36000000), and the Priority program QUTIF of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (SPP1840).


  • direct tunneling
  • electron tunneling devices
  • inelastic tunneling
  • optical-field-driven
  • resonant tunneling
  • single-electron tunneling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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