Feeds

Boffins peg co-polymers for cheap chip construction

Molecule lithography breakthrough

High performance access to file storage

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have devised a potential chip-making technique that is the molecular equivalent of Doodles for Fun, a 1970s toy which kids used to make pictures by stretching coloured rubber bands on a pegged board.

The MIT team's pegs are silicon posts etched onto a chip using a standard, inexpensive photolithographic process of the kind used to create circuits in today's CPUs and GPUs.

The rubber bands are molecular co-polymers - two mutually repelling molecules which are nonetheless attached to each other, causing them to form specific shapes as they seek to get as far away from each other as possible.

MIT silicon pegs

Pegs and bands: Molecules bonded to silicon posts
Source: Yeon Sik Jung and Joel Yang, MIT

This behaviour means scientists know exactly what patterns the molecules will form when deposited upon the silicon pegs.

The upshot, the team say, is the basis for a method by which complex circuitry can be marked out on a silicon wafer at sizes smaller than today's chip-making machines are able to work.

Currently, chip circuitry is created by covering the chip's surface in a photosensitive chemical which is then illuminated with light shone through a picture - called a 'mask' - of the connections and transistors. Where the light strikes, the chemical reacts, changing it into a substance that shields the silicon beneath it from the acid used to etch out the grooves that will be then filled to form the circuits.

The need to add more and more circuitry to a chip necessitates smaller and smaller wiring and components. That, in turn, requires ever lower wavelengths of light to be used. Soon chip makers will reach the point where they simply can't use light any more. New techniques will be needed to mark out the circuitry on the silicon.

Using molecules which are known to form specific patterns is one option. But previous research work has required grooves to etched in the surface of the silicon to form sites from which the polymers can assemble themselves.

Cutting the grooves requires expensive, complex electron-beam lithography. The MIT breakthrough is to find a way to create a framework - all those silicon pegs - in which the polymers can form the required shape using cheap photolithography.

The researchers' paper - "Complex self-assembled patterns using sparse commensurate templates with locally varying motifs" - is published this week in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Report: Apple seeking to raise iPhone 6 price by a HUNDRED BUCKS
'Well, that 5c experiment didn't go so well – let's try the other direction'
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
Nvidia gamers hit trifecta with driver, optimizer, and mobile upgrades
Li'l Shield moves up to Android 4.4.2 KitKat, GameStream comes to notebooks
AMD unveils Godzilla's graphics card – 'the world's fastest, period'
The Radeon R9 295X2: Water-cooled, 5,632 stream processors, 11.5TFLOPS
Sony battery recall as VAIO goes out with a bang, not a whimper
The perils of having Panasonic as a partner
NORKS' own smartmobe pegged as Chinese landfill Android
Fake kit in the hermit kingdom? That's just Kim Jong-un-believable!
Gimme a high S5: Samsung Galaxy S5 puts substance over style
Biometrics and kid-friendly mode in back-to-basics blockbuster
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.