Scientists achieve silicon breakthrough

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Scientists achieve silicon breakthrough

London university uses UV rays to create base microchip material.

Scientists at University College London (UCL) have discovered a technique that could change the way microprocessors are made and ultimately reduce the cost of computers.

The technique uses ultraviolet (UV) light to allow silicon oxide to be created at room temperature, instead of using furnaces heated at up to 1,200C.

Being able to produce processor materials in this way will speed up a crucial part of the process of making chips, says Professor Ian Boyd, one of the project leaders at UCL.

"Silicon is successful in microchips because it is a cheap material to obtain and its natural oxide is used in many areas of chip design," he said. "Because the oxide normally grows slowly on the surface of silicon wafers, they are put into furnaces to speed-grow the necessary thickness at huge temperatures."

UCL’s new method uses deep UV rays to create the necessary levels of oxide on the wafers in less than a minute, while staying at room temperature.

"This process would allow advanced devices to be made, because it would improve the conductivity of the silicon oxide," according to Gartner analyst Dean Freeman.

"However, there are other steps in the process of making microchips that still need high temperature exposures, so this is an incremental advance rather than a revolutionary one."

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