Posted: February 21, 2007

Nanotechnology breaks the 10-nanometer chip design rule

(Nanowerk News) Korean researchers are going all-out to develop semiconductors adopting the much-touted 10-nanometer design rule.
Flash memory cards using the ultra-slim technology will be able to store data equivalent to 64,000 years of a 40-page daily. But the 10-nanometer design rule is regarded as dream technology as it has been deemed as almost impossible to achieve.
Leading the project are Prof. Choi Hee-cheul of Pohang University of Science and Technology and Kim Hyun-tak of the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI).
Choi employed carbon nanotubes to successfully etch circuits that are thinner than 10 nanometers on the face of silicon wafers.
"As far as we know, we broke a 10-nanometer barrier for the first time in history. We could make a breakthroughs after finding surface chemical reactions of carbon nanotubes," Choi said.
"We hope this carbon nanotube-based technology will help crank out 10-nanometer memory chips. Toward that end, we are currently cooperating with U.S. venture start-ups," he said.
The findings were featured in Nature Nanotechnology ("Carbon nanotube guided formation of silicon oxide nanotrenches") this week.
Carbon nanotubes are cylindrical carbon molecules, which are on the order of merely a few nanometers wide. They are called dream materials because of their unique physical and chemical properties.
Kim Hyun-tak at the state-run ETRI is working on a new substance dubbed a Mott insulator, which instantly changes from a conductive metal to an insulator.
Kim hopes the insulator, which he and his men created in 2004 after years of experiments, will break the technical stagnation in making semiconductors with circuits slimmer than 10 nanometers.
"I think a Mott insulator is the answer to make memory chips with super-slim circuits thanks to its characteristic of abruptly converting from a conductor to an insulator and vice versa," Kim said.
"The 20th century was an age of semiconductors and this century will be one of Mott insulators. These materials will open up an enormous market," Kim said.
Source: The Korea Times