Microchip miniaturization is making quality control-related measurement of features during the production process increasingly difficult. New National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) software and research results* should help manufacturers reduce errors in measuring microchip features which today measure less than 37 nanometers (about 1.5 millionths of an inch) in width and are expected to shrink to 25 nanometers (about 1 millionth of an inch) by 2007.
Currently, most semiconductor manufacturers use scanning electron microscopes (SEMs) to measure circuitry lines when the chip is first being patterned. Circuit dimensions are formed when ultraviolet light is shined on a thin film of polymer laid over silicon. Exposed areas harden, allowing unexposed areas to be chemically etched into tiny troughs for laying down circuit lines. Errors caught before etching may be correctable, while those caught later may result in scrapping the wafer and loss of a sizeable investment.
The NIST software equips the SEMs with a "model library" of possible line measurements. Technicians can use the enhanced SEMs to match measured images with library images in order to more accurately determine the shapes and sizes of features. Using the new software can cut measurement errors from tens of nanometers down to a few nanometers. The new method also is more reliable. There is about three times less variation among repeated measurements of the same circuit feature using the software than with the current most commonly used method.
John Blair | EurekAlert!
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Controlling electronic current is essential to modern electronics, as data and signals are transferred by streams of electrons which are controlled at high speed. Demands on transmission speeds are also increasing as technology develops. Scientists from the Chair of Laser Physics and the Chair of Applied Physics at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have succeeded in switching on a current with a desired direction in graphene using a single laser pulse within a femtosecond ¬¬ – a femtosecond corresponds to the millionth part of a billionth of a second. This is more than a thousand times faster compared to the most efficient transistors today.
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At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.
Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
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Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
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