Thinnest, Smoothest Metallic Lines Made
Jul 6, 2010
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Researchers have created metallic lines so thin and smooth that a powerful electron microscope is needed to view them.

The lines were created by scientists from Singapore A*STAR’s Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE), University of Cambridge (UK), and Sungkyunkwan University (South Korea), whose research will be published in the July 2010 issue of Advanced Functional Materials.

The metallic lines have widths of just 7 nm. Line width roughness - the variations in thickness along the line itself – are just 2.9 nm, a value that is below the 2010 target of 3.2 nm and closer to 2011’s target line width roughness of 2.8 nm as indicated in the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors.

The width of an average human hair, 100 µm, is about 14,000 times the width of a 7 nm-wide metal line. Creating distinct lines and patterns on a sub-10 nm scale is essential to further miniaturization of electronic components.

“Our work shows that continuous metallic lines as small as 4 nm are possible to make, " said Dr MSM Saifullah, a Research Scientist with IMRE.

The technique could potentially be used to make interconnects, which carry electrical pulses and data in extremely small integrated circuits (ICs), leading to faster data transfer rates and less heat energy wasted.

The current "lift-off" method of making metal lines at this scale requires more steps, using more materials, and with rougher results. Researchers this time used an organometallic material that is made up of a metallic and an organic component. Using a combination of electron beam lithography and subsequent gas treatment, researchers could uniformly chip away the organic portions to leave the thin metal lines.

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