Today's computer chip makers are able to
provide faster computer chips by shrinking the size of the transistors
that make up a chip. The laws of physics, however, or poised to catch
up with chip-makers sometime in the next decade and standard manufacturing
methods will no longer be able to make smaller chip features.
Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
have devised a way to use the chemistry of silicon surfaces to make smaller
The method could permit the semiconductor industry to extend the
lifetime of today's basic chip manufacturing methods and so delay the
need to develop completely different methods of making computer chips.
The method allows for more precise ion implantation, a process
that replaces some small areas of silicon atoms with an electrically active
substance, or dopant. Doped regions of the semiconductor actively conduct
current. Smaller doped regions make for faster chips.
The researchers' method modifies the ability of a silicon surface
to pull atoms from inside the bulk by filling some of the surface silicon
bonds with nitrogen-containing gases like ammonia. The researchers have
shown that is possible to draw silicon atoms knocked loose by on an implantation
and leaves dopant atoms in place. These silicon atoms cause the dopant
to spread out from the target area, and removing them confines the dopant
to a smaller area.
The number of unused silicon bonds that can be filled with nitrogen
is controlled by varying the type of nitrogen-containing gases used and
the degree of exposure.
The technique promises to be easy to integrate into manufacturing
production lines and could be used within a year, according to the researchers.
The researchers presented the work at the 7th International Conference
on Solid-State and Integrated-Circuit Technology held in Beijing, China,
October 18 to 21, 2004.
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