Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Engineers roll up their sleeves – and then do same with inductors

On the road to smaller, high-performance electronics, University of Illinois researchers have smoothed one speed bump by shrinking a key, yet notoriously large element of integrated circuits.

Three-dimensional rolled-up inductors have a footprint more than 100 times smaller without sacrificing performance. The researchers published their new design paradigm in the journal Nano Letters.

Photo by Xiuling Li

Illinois researchers developed a new design paradigm for inductors. Processed while flat, they then roll up on their own, taking up much less space on a chip.

“It’s a new concept for old technology,” said team leader Xiuling Li, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois.

Inductors, often seen as the sprawling metal spirals on computer chips, are essential components of integrated circuits. They store magnetic energy, acting as a buffer against changes in current and modulating frequency – especially important in radio-frequency wireless devices. However, they take up a lot of space. Inductance depends on the number of coils in the spiral, so engineers cannot make them smaller without losing performance.

In addition, the larger the area the inductor occupies, the more it interfaces with the substrate the chip is built on, exacerbating a hindering effect called parasitic capacitance. Researchers have developed some three-dimensional inductor structures to solve the dual problems of space and parasitic capacitance, but these methods are complex and use techniques that are difficult to scale up to manufacturing levels.

The new inductor design uses techniques Li’s group previously developed for making thin films of silicon nitrate, merely tens of nanometers in thickness, that roll themselves up into tubes. The research team used industry-standard two-dimensional processing to pattern metal lines on the film before rolling, creating a spiral inductor.

“We’re making 3-D structures with 2-D processing,” Li said. “Instead of spreading this out in a large area to increase inductance, we can have the same inductance but packed into a much smaller area.”

Using the self-rolling technique, the researchers can shrink the area needed for a radio-frequency inductor to a scant 45 microns by 16 microns – more than 100 times smaller than the area an equivalent flat spiral would require.

The design can be adjusted to fit target parameters including metal thickness and type, frequency, tube diameter and number of turns. According to Li, this technique could be used for capacitors and other integrated circuit elements as well.

Now, Li’s group is working to produce high-performance inductor prototypes, in collaboration with electrical and engineering professor Jose Schutt-Aine. Preliminary experimental data show strong correlation with the modeled designs.

“Once we have optimized this process, we should be able to make an integrated circuit with a completely different platform that could be much smaller,” Li said. “It’s an ambitious goal.”

The National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research supported this work. U. of I. visiting researcher Wen Huang, postdoctoral researcher Xin Yu, graduate student Paul Froeter and mechanical science and engineering professor Placid Ferreira were co-authors of this study. Li also is affiliated with the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, the Micro and Nanotechnology Lab, and the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Lab, all at the U. of I.

Liz Ahlberg | EurekAlert!
Further information:

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: How do Landslides control the weathering of rocks?

Chemical weathering in mountains depends on the process of erosion.

Chemical weathering of rocks over geological time scales is an important control on the stability of the climate. This weathering is, in turn, highly dependent...

Im Focus: How Cells in the Developing Ear ‘Practice’ Hearing

Before the fluid of the middle ear drains and sound waves penetrate for the first time, the inner ear cells of newborn rodents practice for their big debut. Researchers at Johns Hopkins report they have figured out the molecular chain of events that enables the cells to make “sounds” on their own, essentially “practicing” their ability to process sounds in the world around them.

The researchers, who describe their experiments in the Dec. 3 edition of the journal Cell, show how hair cells in the inner ear can be activated in the absence...

Im Focus: Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s

Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.

Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

European Geosciences Union meeting: Media registration now open (EGU 2016 media advisory 1)

01.12.2015 | Event News

Urbanisation and migration from rural areas challenging agriculture in Eastern Europe

30.11.2015 | Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Latest News

USGS projects large loss of Alaska permafrost by 2100

01.12.2015 | Earth Sciences

New study reveals what's behind a tarantula's blue hue

01.12.2015 | Life Sciences

Climate Can Grind Mountains Faster Than They Can Be Rebuilt

01.12.2015 | Earth Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>