A new technique that uses water to create patterns of wires less than 10 nanometers wide could be promising for the semiconductor industry as it seeks to make circuits ever smaller.
The technique, developed by the lab of chemist James Tour at Rice University, builds upon its discovery that the meniscus–the curvy surface of water at its edge–can be an effective mask to make nanowires.
The researchers have now made nanowires between 6 and 16 nanometers wide from silicon, silicon dioxide, gold, chromium, tungsten, titanium, titanium dioxide, and aluminum. They have also made crossbar structures of conducting nanowires from one or more of the materials.
A paper on their technique, called meniscus-mask lithography, has been published online by the journal Nano Letters.
“This could have huge ramifications for chip production since the wires are easily made to sub-10-nanometer sizes,” Tour says. “There’s no other way in the world to do this en masse on a surface.”
Current approaches to making such tiny wires take several paths. Lithography, the standard method for etching integrated circuits, is approaching the physical limits of its ability to shrink them further. Bulk synthesis of semiconducting and metallic nano wires is also possible, but the wires are difficult to position in integrated circuits.