Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Discovery Could Lead To Faster, Smaller, Cheaper Computer Chips

Date:
June 20, 2002
Source:
Princeton University
Summary:
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.

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.

Related Articles


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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Princeton University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Princeton University. "Discovery Could Lead To Faster, Smaller, Cheaper Computer Chips." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 June 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/06/020620074853.htm>.
Princeton University. (2002, June 20). Discovery Could Lead To Faster, Smaller, Cheaper Computer Chips. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/06/020620074853.htm
Princeton University. "Discovery Could Lead To Faster, Smaller, Cheaper Computer Chips." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/06/020620074853.htm (accessed November 24, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Monday, November 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) A British solar power start-up says that by covering millions of existing car park spaces around the UK with flexible solar panels, the country's power problems could be solved. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Microsoft Adds Robot Guards, Ushers In Sci-Fi Apocalypse

Microsoft Adds Robot Guards, Ushers In Sci-Fi Apocalypse

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) Microsoft has robotic security guards working at its Silicon Valley Campus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Toyota's Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Green Car Soon Available in the US

Toyota's Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Green Car Soon Available in the US

AFP (Nov. 21, 2014) Toyota presented its hydrogen fuel-cell compact car called "Mirai" to US consumers at the Los Angeles auto show. The car should go on sale in 2015 for around $60.000. It combines stored hydrogen with oxygen to generate its own power. Duration: 01:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google Announces Improvements To Balloon-Borne Wi-Fi Project

Google Announces Improvements To Balloon-Borne Wi-Fi Project

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) In a blog post, Google said its balloons have traveled 3 million kilometers since the start of Project Loon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins