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New nanoscale process created by UCSB scientists will help computers run faster and more efficiently
Date:9/25/2008

e current technology." One of the ways that microprocessors are made is by using a top-down technique called photolithography, which involves shining light onto the surface of a silicon wafer, and making patterns. He explained that the size of the wavelength of light is becoming a limiting factor, and so his team has invented a new way of creating smaller patterns.

"We've come up with this new blending approach, called block co-polymer lithography, or BCP," said Hawker. "It essentially relies on a natural self-assembly process. Just like proteins in the body, these molecules come together and self assemble into a pattern. And so we use that pattern as our lithographic tool, to make patterns on the silicon wafer."

Using this technique, the size of the features is about the same as that of the molecules. They are very small, between five and 20 nanometers. "With this strategy, we can make many more features," said Hawker, "and hence we can pack the transistors closer together and everything else closer together using this new form of lithography."

When this technique has been tried before, the molecules spontaneously self assembled into hexagonal arrays; they look like bee hives. But since industry uses parallel lines on a square or rectangular grid, the hexagonal arrays have limited application.

"In this article, we've actually shown that by changing the structure of the molecules, and using two self-assembling procedures at the same time, we're actually able to get square arrays, for the first time," said Hawker. "So now you can start to marry the old technology with the new technology for the fabrication of microprocessors."

Hawker said that the new technology was designed to be compatible with current manufacturing techniques, giving it the potential to be a "slip-in" technology. "All the big microprocessor companies like Intel and IBM have invested billions of dollars in their fabrication plants," said Hawker. "T
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Contact: Gail Gallessich
gail.g@ia.ucsb.edu
805-893-7220
University of California - Santa Barbara
Source:Eurekalert

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