TX (16 August 2005) - Engineers at the Advanced Materials
Research Center (AMRC) here are investigating a nanoscale
approach to metrology that will allow them to examine
new semiconductor structures at the atomic level,
and so prepare the way for next-generation electronics.
The new methodology uses computer modeling designed
for use with aberration-corrected transmission
electron microscopy (TEM), an imaging method
that can resolve as small as 0.7 Angstrom
(Å). Many inter-atomic spacings in crystals, including
silicon, have dimensions less than 0.1 nm (1 Å).
This capability of viewing atom-sized structures
will push forward the feasibility of advanced
semiconductor structures such as fin-shaped
field-effect transistors (FinFETs,) which
are hoped-for replacements for conventional
CMOS transistors that are running up against
fundamental physical limitations.
"Aberration correction has changed the resolution of electron microscopy
and opened new windows on the atomic structure of nanotechnology," said
Alain Diebold, a SEMATECH Senior Fellow and internationally recognized metrology
expert. "By adding modeling, we can simulate images much more accurately,
and truly understand what we are seeing."
The AMRC project is being led by Dr. Brian Korgel,
University of Texas at Austin chemical engineering
professor, in consultation with Diebold.
Its aim is to employ unique software to simulate
electron diffraction patterns of nanowires,
whose diameters of less than 20 nm are similar
to the dimensions of next-generation transistor
gates and the fin-like structure of FinFETs.
However, since nanowires are simpler structures, using them will allow
researchers to refine their new microscopy techniques for more demanding
metrology in the future.
"In the past, metrology has had trouble keeping up with the rapid advances
in semiconductor scaling," said Diebold. "Now we have a tool that gives
us the potential to understand surface and interface morphology, and atomic structure,
in ways that we have never been able to do before. It gives us a big leg up in
understanding the structures of future devices."
AMRC focuses on leading-edge materials and capabilities
for next-generation semiconductors, as well as
cutting-edge research in nanotechnology, biotechnology,
and other related advanced high-tech areas. The
aim of the five-year AMRC effort is to accelerate
the commercialization of critical technology research
that economists believe will generate the industries,
careers, and tax revenue of the future. For details,
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