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Aug 8, 2020

Tiniest secrets of integrated circuits revealed with new imaging technique

Posted by in categories: computing, particle physics, quantum physics

The life-givers of integrated circuits and quantum devices in silicon are small structures made from patches of foreign atoms called dopants. The dopant structures provide charge carriers that flow through the components of the circuit, giving the components their ability to function. These days the dopant structures are only a few atoms across and so need to be made in precise locations within a circuit and have very well-defined electrical properties. At present manufacturers find it hard to tell in a non-destructive way whether they have made their devices according to these strict requirements. A new imaging paradigm promises to change all that.

The imaging mode called broadband electric force microscopy, developed by Dr. Georg Gramse at Keysight technologies & JKU uses a very sharp probe that sends into a silicon chip, to image and localize structures underneath the surface. Dr. Gramse says that because the microscope can use waves with many frequencies it can provide a wealth of previously inaccessible detail about the electrical environment around the dopant structures. The extra information is crucial to predicting how well the devices will ultimately perform.

The imaging approach was tested on two tiny dopant structures made with a templating process which is unique in achieving atomically sharp interfaces between differently doped regions. Dr. Tomas Skeren at IBM produced the world’s first electronic diode (a circuit component which passes current in only one direction) fabricated with this templating process, while Dr. Alex Kölker at UCL created a multilevel 3D with atomic scale precision.

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