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Silicon alternative may end up in future electronics  (Source: Medical Daily)
It was Professor Plum in the lab with indium arsenide

Researchers are conducting intense research into alternative technologies for replacing the current semiconductors used in today's electronics. The problem with current silicon is that the tech has a foreseeable end to the limits at which it can operate and the electronic world is constantly craving better performance.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley have been working together on a project that has found an ultra-thin alternative to silicon that might find its way into future electronic devices. Rather than using silicon like today's semiconductors, the team was able to devise a method of transferring a better performing semiconductor material called indium arsenide onto a silicon substrate.

The researchers say that indium arsenide offers several key advantages when compared to silicon and is a member of the III-V class of semiconductors. This class of semiconductors has very fast and efficient electron transport properties, but the challenge has been finding a way to integrate the class of semiconductors with the established technology for constructing silicon-based devices today.

Research leader Ali Javey, a faculty scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at UC Berkeley, said, “We’ve shown a simple route for the heterogeneous integration of indium arsenide layers down to a thickness of 10 nanometers on silicon substrates. The devices we subsequently fabricated were shown to operate near the projected performance limits of III-V devices with minimal leakage current. Our devices also exhibited superior performance in terms of current density and transconductance as compared to silicon transistors of similar dimensions.”

The team of researchers has been able to transfer the ultra-thin layers of single-crystal indium arsenide onto silica/silicon substrates using a special method. The team grows the indium arsenide films that are 10 to 100nm thick on a preliminary source substrate and then lithographically patterns the films into ordered nano-ribbon arrays. Those arrays are then removed from the substrate using a selective wet-etching process and then stamped onto silicon substrates.

“We’ve demonstrated what we are calling an ‘XOI,’ or compound semiconductor-on-insulator technology platform, that is parallel to today’s ‘SOI,’ or silicon-on-insulator platform,” says Javey. “Using an epitaxial transfer method, we transferred ultra-thin layers of single-crystal indium- arsenide on silicon/silica substrates, then fabricated devices using conventional processing techniques in order to characterize the XOI material and device properties.”

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By Fraggeren on 11/23/2010 11:51:12 AM , Rating: 4
I thought graphene would be the next big thing

RE: graphene
By Shig on 11/23/2010 11:58:23 AM , Rating: 2
While graphene does have the best electronic properties known to man atm, it's still too tricky to mass produce with current fabrication techniques.

The cool thing about these newer semi-conductors is that a lot of R&D that goes into solar panels will help microprocesors and vice versa. This semiconductor is in most thin film solar panels in some way.

RE: graphene
By mcnabney on 11/23/2010 12:15:42 PM , Rating: 2
I was also reading about synthetic diamonds which could be manufactured as waffers. They had good prospects for the future. Especially since that material has no problems with heat.

RE: graphene
By LRonaldHubbs on 11/23/2010 2:45:29 PM , Rating: 3
A big problem (currently) with sapphire and diamond as substrates is that the wafers are so small. Last I read, about two years ago, they were at about 4 inches in diameter for sapphire and 2 inches for diamond. Meanwhile 300mm is standard for silicon wafers.

RE: graphene
By tng on 11/23/2010 7:14:46 PM , Rating: 4
They now have 150mm sapphire wafers, Honeywell Electronic Materials I think... Can't see them coming in 200mm or 300mm very soon though.

Sapphire is very expensive and has specific uses. You will find that most of the Green LEDs in traffic lights are manufactured on sapphire. LED manufacturing has been a boon to the semiconductor market. It is also used in military grade devices that need to be radiation hardened and stuff like memory for satellites.

300mm may be the standard, but most manufacturers still run most at 200mm. Equipment for running 300mm is expensive for most fabs who are not an Intel, TI, TSMC or the like. Many places still use 150mm because the equipment is cheap, wafers are cheap and it takes up much less space.

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