Self-building chips - easy as microwave ready meals

Nanotechnology boost could compete with lithography for chip processes

Stewart Mitchell
26 Oct 2010

Researchers at Canada's National Institute for Nanotechnology (NINT) have developed a way of quicker way to enable self-assembling semiconductors - using microwaves ovens.

The technique could make the technology a viable alternative to conventional lithography for chip production.

Self assembly is seen as key to enabling nanotechnology, but until now the block co-polymer method, which directs nanomaterials to create moulds and then fills them in with a target material, was too slow to be useful.

However, the Canadian researchers found that by switching from old-fashioned convective cookers to newfangled microwave ovens the process time was reduced from days to less than a minute.

“By using microwaves, we have dramatically decreased the cooking time for a specific molecular self-assembly process used to assemble block co-polymers, and have now made it a viable alternative to the conventional lithography process for use in patterning semi-conductors,” the researchers said.

"This is one of the first examples of the self-assembly process being used to address a real-world problem for the semi-conductor industry," said Dr Jillian Buriak, head of materials and interfacial chemistry at NINT.

"We've got the process - the next step is to exploit it to make something useful."

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