LEUVEN, Belgium The Interuniversities MicroElectronics Center (IMEC) has initiated a collaborative research program on the use of nanotechnologies to either replace CMOS manufacturing processes or extend their life.
Carbon nanotubes, semiconductor vias and spintronics are all on the research menu, although IMEC did not say how long it expects the program to last or how many partners it hopes to attract to its IMEC industrial affiliation program (IIAP). Typically IMEC works with about half a dozen companies in such affiliate programs.
This latest effort would also seek alternatives to current optical scaling to reduce device dimensions using nanotechnologies, IMEC said. The program would in particular investigate disruptive technologies or new paradigms for semiconductor manufacturing processes.
Manufacturing techniques could include controlled self-assembly at the molecular level, printing and other maskless forms of lithography.
Although individual electronic and spintronic devices have been demonstrated, there has been little effort to use nanotechnology building blocks to create an innovative technology with higher density and new functionality, IMEC said.
Participants in the IMEC program are invited to send engineers and scientists to investigate the use of semiconducting wires, carbon nanotubes and spintronics and, at the same time, develop the metrology and theoretical approach required as a backbone for implementation of the new methodologies.
IMEC has the capability to make semiconducting wires as vertical-pillar structures. In the first phase of the research, IMEC said it plans to start evaluating their use as vias between metal interconnect layers. The typical dimensions of the pillars (20- to 100-nm) match with state-of-the-art optical lithography.
The initiative is also set to investigate the growth of carbon nanotubes. A main roadblock in this area is "chirality," or variation in the diameter and structure of tubes.
A third key area of research is spintronics. Electron spin is a candidate to replace electron charge in electronics. The program is expected to identify roadblocks and explore opportunities of implementing spintronics in combination with silicon technology.
To support the research, the program will develop metrology guidelines and provide theoretical quantitative models describing newly observed phenomena in nanoelectronics. This will help researchers in understanding matter at the nanometric scale.