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August 16, 2009

IBM employs DNA Scaffolding to make computer chips

Can it meet the challenges of developing lithographic technology for feature sizes smaller than 22nm?

By CBR Staff Writer

IBM Research and the California Institute of Technology have revealed a scientific advancement that the company claimed could enable the semiconductor industry to enhance tiny computer chips, while making them energy efficient and less expensive to manufacture.

IBM Researchers and collaborator Paul W.K. Rothemund, of the California Institute of Technology, has reportedly combined lithographic patterning with self assembly – a method to arrange DNA origami structures on surfaces compatible with today’s semiconductor manufacturing equipment.

IBM’s approach of using DNA molecules as scaffolding – where millions of carbon nanotubes could be deposited and self-assembled into precise patterns by sticking to the DNA molecules – may provide a way to reach sub-22nm lithography, the company said.

The company also said that the utility of this approach lies in the fact that the positioned DNA nanostructures can serve as scaffolds, or miniature circuit boards, for the precise assembly of components – such as carbon nanotubes, nanowires and nanoparticles – at dimensions smaller than possible with conventional semiconductor fabrication techniques.

The lithographic templates were fabricated at IBM, using traditional semiconductor techniques, the same used to make the chips found in today’s computers, to etch out patterns, creating the lithographic templates for this new approach, the company said.

Spike Narayan, manager of science & technology at IBM Research – Almaden, said: The cost involved in shrinking features to improve performance is a limiting factor in keeping pace with Moore’s Law and a concern across the semiconductor industry. The combination of this directed self-assembly with today’s fabrication technology eventually could lead to substantial savings in the most expensive and challenging part of the chip-making process.

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