Melting Microchips May Mean Meatier Machines

Stephen Chou of Princeton recently introduced a simple, cheap method to drastically improve the straightness of line structures and roundness of dots on a microchip. While this may sound somewhat mundane it may allow for dramatic improvements in chip scalability, as current fabrication methods mandate a size-imposed limit which prevents the further improvements in density and energy usage.

But an excimer laser and a quartz guide plate may change everything.

Scientists have long known that given the ability to melt imperfections on a chip then allowing those structures to re-harden often yields a more perfect structure. Surface tension is the force at work, creating rounder dots or straighter lines. The problem is, applying enough heat to melt conducting material is usually the same amount of heat needed to fry your chip.

Chou solved that problem by using an excimer laser (maybe he was inspired after Lasik surgery?). It heats and consequently melts only the top-most portion of the structures, leaving the remainder of the chip intact. Applied as per (A) in the illustration above yields nearly perfect dots and lines where there was once blobs and jags.

But, what’s really interesting in the next step. By applying a quartz guide plate some tiny distance above the chip structures, these structures grew upward to come in contact with the plate during the melting process. The resulting hardened structures were narrower and taller (not to mention straighter and more perfect) which is exactly what is required for high-density very small-scale chip design.

Why do I have the feeling we haven’t seen the last of Moore’s Law?

Source: Princeton

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