A better insulator for miniaturized integrated circuits

July 24, 2001 | Source: Nature Science Update

Highly insulating new honeycomb material may allow microelectronic integrated circuits to be made even smaller, increasing the power of microchip and computer technology.
When electronic devices get very small, insulating silica films must be shrunk to the same proportions. Too thin, they become leaky and electrical currents seep out, creating problems such as crosstalk between different parts of the circuit.

Leakage could become a problem once the dimensions of devices such as transistors fall below 100 millionths of a millimetre (1 nanometre) or so, which may happen in the next few years. So researchers are keen to find insulators better than pure silica.

Kuei-jung Chao, of National Tsing Hua University and colleagues combined air’s low dielectric constant with silica’s strength in a porous “mesoporous silica” that is up to 72 per cent empty space. These films have low enough dielectric constants and sufficient robustness to meet the practical requirements of the next phase of IC miniaturization.