Discovery may lead to faster, more powerful processors

Welcome to Self-Perfection by Liquefaction

Researchers at Princeton University this week reported that they have found a way to literally melt away miniscule defects in computer chips, a discovery that could help manufacturers build more powerful processors.

As chips get smaller and smaller, tiny defects in shapes, lines and dots that are etched into them can ruin performance. If the nanostructures aren't straight, thin and tall in integrated circuits, for example, it could cause current leakage and voltage fluctuation.

"These chip defects pose serious roadblocks to future advances in many industries," said Stephen Chou, Princeton's Joseph C. Elgin Professor of Engineering, in a statement. Chou worked with graduate student Qiangfei Xia on the research project.

By getting rid of the tiny flaws, chip makers could create even smaller and more powerful processors, which, in turn, could mean smaller and more powerful devices.

Chou and Xia's effort did not focus on finding ways to create chips with no flaws, but on ways to automatically erasing existing ones. The process, which the inventors call Self-Perfection by Liquefaction, is designed to melt the structures on the chip in a fraction of a millionth of a second -- just long enough for the resulting flow of liquid to be guided so it re-solidifies into the proper shapes, according to a university document.

The researchers use a pulse of light from a laser similar to the ones used in laser eye surgery, because it heats only a thin top layer of the flawed structures, which are made of semiconductors and metals, and causes no damage to whatever is beneath it. They designed the pulse so it melts only semiconductor and metal materials and leaves other parts of the chip untouched, the university reported.

Chou also noted that he placed a thin quartz plate on top of the melting structures to guide the liquid flow. The plate prevents the molten structure from widening, while keeping its top flat and sides vertical. In one experiment, it made the edges of 70 nanometer-wide chromium lines more than five times smoother, according to Chou.

"We are able to achieve a precision and improvement far beyond what was previously thought achievable," said Chou. "What we propose... is a paradigm shift. Rather than struggle to improve fabrication methods, we could simply fix the defects after fabrication. And fixing the defects could be automatic -- a process of self-perfection."

The next step for the Princeton researchers will be to try out this new technique on 8-in. wafers, the university reported.

The research was published in the May 4 issue of Nature Nanotechnology.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?