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Posted: March 25, 2010
New research center to focus on advanced plasma processes and insulators used in semiconductor manufacturing
(Nanowerk News) Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC), the world's leading university-research consortium for semiconductors and related technologies, and the University of North Texas (UNT) today announced the formation of a new research center focused on the fundamental understanding of advanced plasma processes and insulators used in manufacturing state-of-the-art semiconductor chips.
Jointly funded by SRC and UNT with an annual budget for at least three years of approximately $850,000, the mission of the Center for Electronic Material Processing and Integration (CEMPI) is to help ensure semiconductor devices continue to increase in performance while growing smaller in size. Plasma processing is used throughout every stage in the manufacturing of semiconductor chips, including depositing, etching and cleaning materials.
Collaborating as part of the center will be a team of 12 researchers from UNT, the University of Maryland, the University of California at Berkeley, Rensselaer Polytechnic University, Pennsylvania State University, Columbia University, University of Texas at Arlington, University of Michigan and Arizona State University. The center will be led by Dr. Jeffry Kelber, a UNT professor of chemistry, and officially begins operations on April 1.
“This center is composed of many of the world experts who can provide the fundamental insights to keep ever thinner insulators on chips from shorting out between the copper wires used on today’s chips,” said Dr. Scott List, director of Interconnect and Packaging Sciences at SRC. “Having all these researchers working together in the center will leverage their combined experimental and modeling expertise and help provide a much more coherent solution path to the semiconductor industry.”
“The University of North Texas has a rich history of research in the surface and interface chemistry of semiconductor processing,” said Kelber. “As semiconductor devices continue to shrink in size and grow in complexity, the control of these surfaces and interfaces over atomic dimensions becomes crucial to further advances. Better plasma processes will be a major step in achieving that goal. The emerging stature of UNT as a research institution makes UNT an outstanding location for the center, with the ability to achieve research synergies and add to the scope of center research going forward.”
Plasmas are gaseous media in which many of the electrons have been removed from the gas atoms to generate a high density of charged particles that are accelerated by applied voltages. The detailed understanding of the physics and chemistry involved in the plasma interactions are becoming increasingly complex and difficult to predict without a fundamental understanding of plasma interactions with electronic materials and development of state-of-the-art plasma models with experimental validation. Such understandings provide both tool manufacturers and chip makers insight into defining the optimal recipes and tool designs to fabricate faster chips.
In addition, CEMPI focuses on the growth and reliability of the new insulators used between the copper wires that enable the chips to be faster and use less power. Even issues as complex as how the detailed plasma processes can impact the insulators to change their speed and reliability are being addressed at CEMPI.
Plans to build a clean room and nanofabrication facility at UNT are currently under way, and these additions will extensively augment UNT’s existing materials characterization and analysis resources. Driven by Dr. Vish Prasad, UNT’s vice president for research and economic development, the university is among an elite group of public institutions nationwide that offer this unique complement of facilities and high-powered instruments. Depending on future funding, the center could also logically expand its research to additional advanced semiconductor topics such as three-dimensional TSV etching, MEMs and packaging.
Celebrating 27 years of collaborative research for the semiconductor industry, SRC defines industry needs, invests in and manages the research that gives its members a competitive advantage in the dynamic global marketplace. Awarded the National Medal of Technology, America’s highest recognition for contributions to technology, SRC expands the industry knowledge base and attracts premier students to help innovate and transfer semiconductor technology to the commercial industry.