'World's thinnest' metal lines to spur device miniaturization

Group of scientists from Singapore, United Kingdom and South Korea say they have created "world's thinnest" metal lines, a move "essential" to further shrink electronic components.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

A group of international scientists have collaborated to create what they say is the world's thinnest and smoothest metallic lines which are used in electronic components. The technological breakthrough will aid in future miniaturization of devices, they say.

Singapore's Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) unveiled on Tuesday that scientists from IMRE, the University of Cambridge in U.K. and Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea, have succeeded in creating metallic lines so thin and smooth that they can only be seen using electron microscopes.

This breakthrough was achieved through "material and technique", IMRE explained, where researchers used organometallic material which is made up of a metallic and organic component, and applied a combination of electron beam lithography and subsequent gas treatment to chip away organic portions in a uniform manner.

These led to the creation of the "world's thinnest metallic lines", it said.

The metallic lines have widths of 7 nanometer (nm) while their line width roughness, which are variations in thickness along a metal line, stands at 2.9nm each--this is below the 2010 target of 3.2nm and inching toward 2011's target of 2.8nm, IMRE revealed.

It noted that the ability to create such distinct line and patterns on a sub-10nm scale level is "essential" in the further miniaturization of electronic components. Conversely, rough, undefined patterns and lines will result in poorly made, energy-inefficient devices.

"Our thin, unbroken and smooth lines are important in ensuring the efficiency of ever-shrinking electronic devices and may lead to more powerful processors," MSM Saifullah, a research scientist with IMRE, said in the media statement. "Furthermore, our work shows that continuous metallic lines as small as 4nm are possible to make."

Saifullah added that the method could be "potentially used" to make interconnects, which he described as "highways" that carry electrical pulses and data in extremely small integrated circuits.

The smoother and more uninterrupted these "highways" are, the faster the data transfer rates and better energy efficiency there will be, he noted.

IMRE said the research paper on the production process of these metal lines will be published in this month's issue of Advanced Functional Materials, a materials science journal.

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