Researchers at KU Leuven and imec have successfully developed a new technique to insulate microchips. The technique uses metal-organic frameworks, a new type of materials consisting of structured nanopores. In the long term, this method can be used for the development of even smaller and more powerful chips that consume less energy. The team has received an ERC Proof of Concept grant to further their research.
Computer chips are getting increasingly smaller. That's not new: Gordon Moore, one of the founders of chip manufacturer Intel, already predicted it in 1965. Moore's law states that the number of transistors in a chip, or integrated circuit, doubles about every two years.
This prognosis was later adjusted to 18 months, but the theory still stands. Chips are getting smaller and their processing power is increasing. Nowadays, a chip can have over a billion transistors.
But this continued reduction in size also brings with it a number of obstacles. The switches and wires are packed together so tightly that they generate more resistance. This, in turn, causes the chip to consume more energy to send signals. To have a well-functioning chip, you need an insulating substance that separates the wires from each other, and ensures that the electrical signals are not disrupted. However, that's not an easy thing to achieve at the nanoscale level.
A study led by KU Leuven professor Rob Ameloot (Department of Microbial and Molecular systems) shows that a new technique might provide the solution. "We're using metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) as the insulating substance. These are materials that consist of metal ions and organic molecules. Together, they form a crystal that is porous yet sturdy."
For the first time, a research team at KU Leuven and imec managed to apply the MOF insulation to electronic material. An industrial method called chemical vapour deposition was used for this, says postdoctoral researcher Mikhail Krishtab (Department of Microbial and Molecular systems). "First, we place an oxide film on the surface. Then, we let it react with vapour of the organic material. This reaction causes the material to expand, forming the nanoporous crystals."
"The main advantage of this method is that it's bottom-up," says Krishtab. "We first deposit an oxide film, which then swells up to a very porous MOF material. You can compare it to a soufflé; that puffs up in the oven and becomes very light. The MOF material forms a porous structure that fills all the gaps between the conductors. That's how we know the insulation is complete and homogeneous. With other, top-down methods, there's always still the risk of small gaps in the insulation."
Powerful and energy efficient
Professor Ameloot's research group has received an ERC Proof of Concept grant to further develop the technique, in collaboration with Silvia Armini from imec's team working on advanced dielectric materials for nanochips. "At imec, we have the expertise to develop wafer-based solutions, scaling technologies from lab to fab and paving the way to realising a manufacturable solution for the microelectronics industry."
"We've shown that the MOF material has the right properties," Ameloot continues. "Now, we just have to refine the finishing. The surface of the crystals is still irregular at the moment. We have to smoothen this to integrate the material in a chip."
Once the technique has been perfected, it can be used to create powerful, small chips that consume less energy. Ameloot: "Various AI applications require a lot of processing power. Think of self-driving cars and smart cities. Technology companies are constantly looking for new solutions that are both quick and energy efficient. Our research can be a valuable contribution to a new generation of chips."
Rob Ameloot | EurekAlert!
Future of LEDs gets boost from verification of localization states in InGaN quantum wells
05.09.2019 | American Institute of Physics
Using lasers to study explosions
04.09.2019 | American Institute of Physics
The demand for even higher resolution videos will continue to increase in the coming years. For this reason, the German public service broadcaster WDR and the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute HHI will collaborate in the coming months to test the Video Coding possibilities offered by the next international standard VVC/H.266.
VVC/H.266 is the successor standard to HEVC/H.265. The latter is currently the most modern and efficient standard for Video Coding and is used, for example, in...
The recording of images of the human brain and its therapy in neurodegenerative diseases is still a major challenge in current medical research. The so-called blood-brain barrier, a kind of filter system of the body between the blood system and the central nervous system, constrains the supply of drugs or contrast media that would allow therapy and image acquisition. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have now produced tiny diamonds, so-called "nanodiamonds", which could serve as a platform for both the therapy and diagnosis of brain diseases.
The blood-brain barrier is a physiological boundary layer that works highly selectively and thus protects the brain: On the one hand, pathogens or toxins are...
For the first time, a team led by Innsbruck physicist Ben Lanyon has sent a light particle entangled with matter over 50 km of optical fiber. This paves the way for the practical use of quantum networks and sets a milestone for a future quantum internet.
The quantum internet promises absolutely tap-proof communication and powerful distributed sensor networks for new science and technology. However, because...
Since their experimental discovery, magnetic skyrmions - tiny magnetic knots - have moved into the focus of research. Scientists from Hamburg and Kiel have now been able to show that individual magnetic skyrmions with a diameter of only a few nanometres can be stabilised in magnetic metal films even without an external magnetic field. They report on their discovery in the journal Nature Communications.
The existence of magnetic skyrmions as particle-like objects was predicted 30 years ago by theoretical physicists, but could only be proven experimentally in...
Theoretical physicists at Trinity College Dublin are among an international collaboration that has built the world's smallest engine - which, as a single calcium ion, is approximately ten billion times smaller than a car engine.
Work performed by Professor John Goold's QuSys group in Trinity's School of Physics describes the science behind this tiny motor.
04.09.2019 | Event News
29.08.2019 | Event News
16.08.2019 | Event News
05.09.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
05.09.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
05.09.2019 | Power and Electrical Engineering