LONDON Surrey NanoSystems Ltd. (Newhaven, England) has raised £2.5 million (about $4.1 million) in second round venture capital to help it develop a silicon-friendly, low-temperature carbon nanotube growth process. Surrey NanoSystems believes CNTs can be used as semiconductor interconnect.
The investment has come from Octopus Ventures Ltd., IP Group plc, the University of Surrey and other investors. Octopus Ventures, a specialist in early-stage venture capital, provided £1.75 million while Surrey NanoSystems' initial venture capital investor IP Group and other investors provided £0.75 million.
"The semiconductor industry urgently needs a new interconnection technology. If you can solve the problem of growing precision carbon nanotubes at silicon-friendly temperatures and we have it opens up a massive potential market," said Ben Jensen, chief technology officer of Surrey NanoSystems, in a statement.
Manufacturers currently use copper to provide the vertical interconnections required for IC fabrication, but this material is running into technical difficulties as the geometry sizes of ICs shrink, according to Surrey NanoSystems. CNTs can be structured to act as extremely efficient conductors, but their adoption as a replacement for copper has been hindered by the fact that conventionally-grown CNTs require temperatures of around 700 degrees C. Surrey NanoSystems’ fabrication system and process allows CNT structures to be grown at silicon-friendly processing temperatures of 350 C or less.
Surrey NanoSystems was established in 2006 as a spin-out from the University of Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI).
The initial focus of Surrey NanoSystems has been the provision of equipment to developers researching and prototyping CNTs to advance the performance and integration density of semiconductors and electronic devices. The company's focus is now optimizing its technology for the mass-volume manufacturing environment, by scaling the hardware and refining and scaling the materials processing technology.
The money will be used to scale the company's materials growth technology from its current 100-mm wafer capability to 300-mm wafers and to add an industry-standard automated interface to its equipment, the company said. Alongside this development work, Surrey NanoSystems is pursuing technology partnerships with both semiconductor manufacturers and volume cluster tool suppliers.
Related links and articles:
Graphene nanoribbons cut power use, cooler than copper
Researchers claim breakthrough in semiconducting nanotubes
Tuebingen University orders Aixtron CNT equipment