A Korean research team successfully developed a method to make a hyperfine circuit pattern for semiconductors smaller than 10nm after solving the problem of going smaller. Previously, creating patterns at 10nm was considered to be a physical limitation. The new technology is expected to drastically increase the number of transistors, memory chips, and displays that can fit in a given space.
The Institute for Basic Science (IBS) announced on April 30 that a research team led by Kim Sang-woo, professor of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, and Kwon Se-hoon, professor of Pusan National University, succeeded in developing a new technique to manufacture 5-nanometer-class circuit patterns for next-gen semiconductors by controlling chemical reactions of atomic units with great precision.
Currently, optical lithography uses photosensitive materials and laser beams to transfer a circuit pattern to a semiconductor. The problem is that it is impossible to make a pattern finer than 10 nanometers with this technique, owing to physical limits.
Block copolymers have been receiving a lot of attention as materials that can quickly make nanoscale patterns in a larger area. However, controlling the distance between fringe patterns has been hard. Creating patterns with appropriate thickness has also been difficult.
The team made a pattern by aligning 14nm rectangular-shaped lines and spacing them 10-14 nm apart using the self-assembling property of block copolymers. Then, they coated the pattern in an aluminum oxide with a thickness of 5 nm, which was controlled to the atomic unit. Finally, after removing the polymers using plasma under airtight conditions and leaving the aluminum oxide layer, the team was able to get a 5 nm semiconductor circuit pattern out of the remaining aluminum oxide layer that had been left behind. They also verified that the pattern was successfully copied to the substrate by utilizing the pattern as a mask.
This study was funded by Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, and the research findings were first published online on April 6 by Advanced Functional Materials, a bi-monthly scientific journal published by Wiley-VCH.