The technique uses metal-organic frameworks, a new type of materials consisting of structured nanopores. In the long term, this method can be used for the development of even smaller and more powerful chips that consume less energy. The team has received an ERC Proof of Concept grant to further their research.
Moore's law states that the number of transistors in a chip, or integrated circuit, doubles about every 18 months. Chips are getting smaller and their processing power is increasing. Nowadays, a chip can have over a billion transistors.
But this continued reduction in size also brings with it a number of obstacles. The switches and wires are packed together so tightly that they generate more resistance. This, in turn, causes the chip to consume more energy to send signals. To have a well-functioning chip, you need an insulating substance that separates the wires from each other, and ensures that the electrical signals are not disrupted. However, that’s not an easy thing to achieve at the nanoscale level.
For the first time, a research team at KU Leuven and imec managed to apply the MOF (metal-organic frameworks) insulation to electronic material. An industrial method called chemical vapour deposition was used for this. The team placed an oxide film on the surface and then let it react with vapour of the organic material. This reaction causes the material to expand, forming nanoporous crystals. It is comparable to a soufflé that puffs up in the oven and becomes very light. The MOF material forms a porous structure that fills all the gaps between the conductors creating an insulation that is complete and homogeneous.
More information at https://www.imec-int.com/en/home