Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Discovery could lead to faster, smaller, cheaper computer chips

20.06.2002


In a discovery that could greatly reduce the size and cost of computer chips, Princeton researchers have found a fast method for printing ultrasmall patterns in silicon wafers.



The method, described in the June 20 issue of Nature, could allow electronics manufacturers to increase the density of transistors on silicon chips by 100-fold while dramatically streamlining the production process. Packing more transistors onto chips is the key to making more powerful computer processors and memory chips.

Researchers in the lab of electrical engineer Stephen Chou used the new technique to make patterns with features measuring 10 nanometers -- 10 millionths of millimeter. The method involves pressing a mold against a piece of silicon and applying a laser pulse for just 20 billionths of a second. The surface of the silicon briefly melts and resolidifies around the mold.


The method eliminates the costly and time-consuming step of etching, or photolithography, which had been the only way to make such small patterns in silicon. While the etching process takes 10 or 20 minutes to make a single chip, Chou’s imprint method accomplishes it in a quarter of a millionth of a second.

"Here you do not need to use all those steps," said Chou. "You just imprint the pattern directly into the silicon. You not only reduce the number of steps, you can do it in nanoseconds."

Chou’s co-authors on the paper are graduate students Chris Keimel and Jian Gu.

In a commentary accompanying the research report in Nature, electrical engineer Fabian Pease of Stanford University wrote that the new method could allow electronics manufacturers to continue the rapid pace of miniaturization that has continued for three decades, but appeared to be running up against fundamental physical limits.

Chou has made a career of breaking what had appeared to be physical limits of miniaturization. In 1996, he developed a method for imprinting nanometer-scale patterns into plastic polymers. That breakthrough greatly simplified the process of making molds, but costly etching was still required to transfer these patterns into silicon.

Chou believed that imprinting would work directly in silicon and could be made to happen much faster.

"People’s intuition is that mechanical processes are very slow, so imprinting cannot be fast," said Chou. "But I knew there is no scientific proof of that. So how do you design an experiment to explore the speed limit of the imprint process?"

The key turned out to be a tool called an excimer laser, which is commonly used in laser surgeries because it can heat just the thinnest surface layer of a material without causing damage underneath. Using conventional etching, Chou made a template of the pattern he wanted out of quartz, which is transparent to the laser beam, and pressed it against the silicon. A brief laser pulse melted the silicon surface around the mold. The silicon does not stick to the quartz.

Revealed by electron microscopes, the patterns the researchers produced look like long, squared-off channels. Each ridge measures 140 nanometers across and is topped by a much smaller ridge just 10 nanometers wide. By comparison, a 10-nanometer ribbon next to a human hair would look like the lead of a mechanical pencil next to a train car.

Chou dubbed the method Laser-Assisted Direct Imprint, or LADI. The University has submitted an invention disclosure, which initiates the process of filing for a patent. He believes the LADI process will mesh well with another of his earlier breakthroughs, his creation in 1996 of the world’s smallest transistor, which requires only a single electron of current. Making common use of such small transistor has been inhibited by lack of a convenient manufacturing process, he said.

Another benefit of LADI, said Chou, is that it eliminates the chemicals used in conventional lithography and is thus more environmentally friendly.

In addition to its commercial applications, the discovery opens an interesting avenue of scientific research, said Chou. Understanding the physics behind melting and solidifying on such small scales will require input from many fields, including materials science, mechanics and microfluidics.

"Scientifically, people are still trying to understand how it works, because it is amazing that it works at all," said Chou.

Steven Schultz | EurekAlert!

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Football through the eyes of a computer
14.06.2018 | Universität Konstanz

nachricht People recall information better through virtual reality, says new UMD study
14.06.2018 | University of Maryland

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

Im Focus: Photoexcited graphene puzzle solved

A boost for graphene-based light detectors

Light detection and control lies at the heart of many modern device applications, such as smartphone cameras. Using graphene as a light-sensitive material for...

Im Focus: Water is not the same as water

Water molecules exist in two different forms with almost identical physical properties. For the first time, researchers have succeeded in separating the two forms to show that they can exhibit different chemical reactivities. These results were reported by researchers from the University of Basel and their colleagues in Hamburg in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

From a chemical perspective, water is a molecule in which a single oxygen atom is linked to two hydrogen atoms. It is less well known that water exists in two...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

New material for splitting water

19.06.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Cementless fly ash binder makes concrete 'green'

19.06.2018 | Materials Sciences

Overdosing on Calcium

19.06.2018 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>