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Research Discovery Could Revolutionize Semiconductor Manufacturing 64

Posted by Soulskill
from the nobody-thought-to-use-playdoh-before-this dept.
New submitter arobatino writes "A new method of manufacturing semiconductors which eliminates the substrate (in other words, no wafer) could be much faster and cheaper. From the article: 'Instead of starting from a silicon wafer or other substrate, as is usual today, researchers have made it possible for the structures to grow from freely suspended nanoparticles of gold in a flowing gas. "The basic idea was to let nanoparticles of gold serve as a substrate from which the semiconductors grow. This means that the accepted concepts really were turned upside down!" Since then, the technology has been refined, patents have been obtained and further studies have been conducted. In the article in Nature, the researchers show how the growth can be controlled using temperature, time and the size of the gold nanoparticles.'"
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Research Discovery Could Revolutionize Semiconductor Manufacturing

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  • by namgge (777284) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @07:42PM (#42124431)

    ...if you believe your new process/material can be developed to the point where it can compete with traditional silicon devices and/or processing methods you are wrong.

    Only if you have an application, such as LEDs where the laws of physics say silicon can't possibly compete is there any chance you will succeed. And even then the chances are you are still wrong.

    namgge

  • Not really (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Chemisor (97276) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @07:52PM (#42124531)

    > patents have been obtained

    I guess it won't revolutionize anything after all; or at least not for another 20 years.

  • by Yarhj (1305397) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @08:56PM (#42125175)
    This article wins today's coveted "Most Hyperbolic Headline" award. First off, here's the actual link, for those of you with access to Nature: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature11652.html [nature.com]

    To understand what the big deal is here, compare baking cookies in your house to a fancy industrial setup: In your home oven you can bake around 20 cookies at once, and you have to put them on a tray. Meanwhile, an industrial bakery has one of those fancy conveyor belt ovens -- dough goes in one side, cookies come out the other, and the conveyor belt itself is the tray. The conventional fabrication process for metallic nanostructures is more like the home method -- you need a tray (usually a silicon substrate, because those are pretty cheap and extremely high-quality), and an reactor of some sort (in this case a really fancy oven that costs more than your car, but still an oven), and you won't be getting any nanowidgets until the kitchen timer dings.

    What this will NOT be useful for is logic circuitry. This group has managed to come up with a pretty good method of manufacturing metallic nanorods. That's all well and good, but bear in mind that all of these high quality nanorods are not attached to anything, and not particularly useful in and of themselves. Perhaps they can make individual nanorods into diodes, but even if they do they're still left with essentially a disordered heap of unconnected devices -- try throwing ten toothpicks in the air and having them land in a perfect grid. Now do it for a billion tiny transistors. You may notice that this process does not scale well.

    This manufacturing method might actually be more useful in the realm of optics. The real breakthrough here is the fact that high quality metallic nanostructures can be grown without a substrate, and can be grown quickly and continuously. Metallic spheres and rods are actually quite interesting at the nanoscale, and behave in very counterintuitive ways (for instance, suspensions of gold spheres take on very different colors when viewed with reflected vs. transmitted light (See for instance the Lycurgus cup: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lycurgus_Cup [wikipedia.org]). People are working away on using those properties to do something more useful than making a better shot glass (for instance, nanostructured metals show some promise at enhancing the efficiency of solar cells), and maybe this manufacturing method will help them out by bringing the cost of high quality research materials down.

    Then again, maybe all we'll get is a few overblown press releases and another three weeks of this article on the front page at Slashdot.

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