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Princeton University develops ultra-small etching technique

Posted: 10 Jul 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Princeton University? silicon wafers? computer chips? Laser-Assisted Direct Imprint?

Researchers from Princeton University have developed a fast method for printing ultra-small patterns in silicon wafers, a discovery they claim can significantly reduce the size and cost of computer chips.

The technique, dubbed as the Laser-Assisted Direct Imprint or LADI, could allow electronics manufacturers to increase the density of transistors on silicon chips by 100 fold while streamlining the production process.

According to electrical engineer Stephen Chou of Princeton, this method eliminates the step of etching or photolithography which had been the only way to make such small patterns in silicon. While the etching process takes 10 or 20 minutes to make a single chip, the LADI method accomplishes it in a quarter of a millionth of a second.

The method involves pressing a mold against a piece of silicon and applying a laser pulse for a 20 billionth of a second. The surface of the silicon briefly melts and resolidifies around the mold. The key to this method is a tool called an excimer laser which is commonly used in laser surgeries. Using conventional etching, Chou made a template of the pattern out of quartz which is transparent to the laser beam and then pressed it against the silicon.

The University has begun the process of filing for a patent for the LADI method.

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