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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

#315 Looking back at 2014

Looking back at the blogs I posted in 2014, I can see that, starting with blog #271, they have touched on a rather eclectic collection of topics.


In retrospect, I would like to point out to the series of six blogs (#281-286) describing interactions of silicon with six elements which are commonly present in the Si device process environment.



Other than that, all the best in 2015! Time is flying….

Posted by Jerzy Ruzyllo at 04:28 PM | Semiconductors | Link

Sunday, December 21, 2014

#314 Atomic Layer Etching, ALE

Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) took advanced semiconductor manufacturing by storm only some 15 years ago. The ALD turned out to be the best technique for the deposition of a few nm thick high-k gate dielectrics for the 45 nm technology generation CMOS and beyond (see blog #248). Since then, ALD grew into an important tool in the arsenal of thin-film deposition techniques in semiconductor manufacturing with applications expanding beyond just a high-k dielectric deposition.



The success of ALD as an additive process featuring atomic layer precision was not followed by the equally precise, atomic scale, subtractive process. It is because atomic layer-by -atomic layer removal of the material is technically more challenging then equally precise deposition. In contrast to isotropic, conformal AL deposition process, which is mostly independent of the chemical composition of the substrate (ALD creates its own surface chemistry), AL etching needs to be anisotropic and highly selective. Similarly to ALD, however, to accomplish atomic layer precision of the material removal process the ALE reaction should be self-limiting.


Because of these challenges the Atomic Layer Etching (ALE) is coming to the commercial life only now. It is a noteworthy development as with an ALE process complementing ALD processes,  new possibilities in advance semiconductor nano-manufacturing are opening up.


Posted by Jerzy Ruzyllo at 07:24 PM | Semiconductors | Link

Sunday, December 7, 2014

#313 Einstein and semiconductors

The name Albert Einstein is synonymous with the great contributions to theoretical physics. It brings almost instantaneously to mind a theory of relativity which is generally considered as his greatest, or at least the best known, accomplishment.


It was not an accomplishment for which he was awarded a Nobel Prize, however. It was his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect for which he was recognized with this most coveted prize.


What matters more to the semiconductor community is Einstein’s role in defining fundaments of charge carriers’ kinetics in semiconductors. The relationship between diffusion coefficient and mobility of charge carriers in semiconductor is known as Einstein relationship.


Posted by Jerzy Ruzyllo at 11:13 AM | Semiconductors | Link

Sunday, November 30, 2014

#312 IEDM 2014

Same as during the last 59 years the program of 2014 edition of the IEEE International Electron Device Meeting (IEDM) to be held Dec. 15-17 in San Francisco reflects the current trends in semiconductor science and engineering.


A quick look at the meeting’s program, even just the session titles, is enough to note how fundamentally different it is from its earlier years editions. To follow IEDM’s programs over the years is a good way to monitor the evolution of semiconductor electronics and photonics.


Posted by Jerzy Ruzyllo at 05:53 AM | Semiconductors | Link

Sunday, November 2, 2014

#311 Various shades of CMOS

In some segments of semiconductor community the term CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor) is immediately associable with the digital ICs where it is a MOSFET’s configuration of choice in both logic and memory applications. With unmatched by other types of digital circuitry low power consumption/dissipation, performance as a switch and scalability, CMOS will remain a workhorse of digital electronics for years to come.


Not to disregard is the role CMOS also plays in performing analog functions for instance in operational amplifier ICs and in RF circuitry. Because of its effectiveness in both digital and analog applications, CMOS is a natural choice for the implementation of mixed signal functions which combine digital and analog circuits on the same chip.


What seems to be not as well recognized is the use of CMOS devices for image sensing. Here, CMOS is a lower cost, low-power replacement for the better established CCD (Charge Coupled Devices) image sensors. With inferior to CCD image quality and sensitivity, CMOS imaging devices are the good match for the low-cost, entry level digital cameras.


Frank Wanlass, who invented CMOS in 1963 at Fairchild Semiconductor, very likely did not anticipate such a divers uses for its invention


Posted by Jerzy Ruzyllo at 09:23 PM | Semiconductors | Link

Sunday, October 26, 2014

#310 Recombination means light

The recombination is a physical effect occurring only in semiconductors. It refers to the effect in which electrons from the upper energy band recombine with the holes in the lower energy band and release energy in the process. If a given semiconductor features a direct energy gap then the energy is released mostly as an electromagnetic radiation in the form of a visible light from red to blue range, or invisible infrared light. The operation of all Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), so ubiquitous these days, is based entirely on this simple principle (strictly speaking the processes leading to the emissive recombination in organic semiconductors are somewhat different than in their inorganic counterparts, but the general idea remains thesame and either way recombination rules… 


I don’t think we fully recognize how profound is our dependence on the process of recombination in semiconductors, so effectively exploited in LEDs. On top on displays, etc., think of LEDs as a source of light in currently virtually all lighting applications.  With life expectancy of just a few month of continuous use and efficiency of about ridiculously low 10%, incandescent bulbs are essentially gone and will never be back. Fluorescent bulbs, including compact fluorescent, are performing better, but will gradually follow incandescent bulbs on the way out as neither in terms of efficiency nor the lifetime they are able to compete with LED-based bulbs.


To make a long story short, whenever and wherever you will see an artificial light, think semiconductors and think recombination.


Posted by Jerzy Ruzyllo at 02:44 PM | Semiconductors | Link

Sunday, October 19, 2014

#309 Nobel Prize omissions?

I understand that for every Nobel Prize awarded there are dozens, if not hundreds, candidates who were nominated, but not selected for this highly coveted prize. It's unavoidable in the process in which six members of the Nobel Committee for Physics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences must select just one accomplishment.


Selecting Nobel Prize worthy accomplishment is one side of the coin. Another is selection of people who contributed to any given groundbreaking achievement. It is not a straightforward task as quite often it involves people who were working on the same idea years apart and, quite often, in the different countries.


Looking back, I don't think I ever had a problem with a selection of a specific scientific accomplishment for the Nobel Prize in physics. The Nobel Prize committee members decide that this is what they want to recognize, and this is it.  On occasion, however, looking at the "semiconductor Nobel Prizes", I would have second thoughts regarding people missing from the awarded teams.


I can think of two occasions where the omission of specific contributors was somewhat striking. First, it would be a very well deserved recognition of his impact if in 2000 Robert Noyce has been awarded, together with Jack Kilby, a Nobel Prize for the invention of an integrated circuits.
Second, concerns this year (2014) Nobel Prize in Physics (see previous blog) awarded "for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources". It would nice to see Nick Holonyak Jr., an inventor of the visible light (red)  LED in 1962, being included  in the team getting a LED related Nobel Prize this year. It was Holonyak who was the first to demonstrate visible light emission from the semiconductor p-n junction later referred to as the Light Emitting Diode (LED). This year award created an excellent opportunity to recognized Holonyak's groundbreaking contribution. 

Posted by Jerzy Ruzyllo at 11:21 AM | Semiconductors | Link

Sunday, October 12, 2014

#308 Semiconductor related Noble Prizes in physics

As the Nobel Prize in physics covers rather broad range of physics related scientific disciplines it is  nice to see it rewarding from time to time achievements related directly to semiconductor device science and engineering.


As you probably know the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics went to  Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura "for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources".


Most of the Nobel Prizes in physics are somehow related to semiconductors. There are some directly related to semiconductors, but over the last 60 years I can see no more than six, including the current one, which could be called "semiconductor device Nobel prizes" becasue of their direct device implications . Here they are in the case you lost track of those milestones:


1956 - W. Shockley, J. Bardeen and W. Brattain "for their researches on semiconductors and their  discovery of the transistor effect"

1973 - L. Esaki and I. Giaever "for their experimental discoveries regarding tunneling phenomena in semiconductors and superconductors, respectively"

2000 - Z. Alferov and H. Kreamer  for developing semiconductor heterojunctions used in high-speed and optoelectronics “ and J. Kilby "for his part in the invention of the integrated circuit"

2009 - W. Boyle and G. Smith "for the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit - the CCD sensor".

2010 - A. Geim and K. Novoselov  "for groundbreaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene"

2014 – see above.


Not a bad list, you have to admit......


Posted by Jerzy Ruzyllo at 01:30 PM | Semiconductors | Link

Sunday, October 5, 2014

#307 SiC goes strong

While progress in mainstream logic and memory IC technology is getting plenty of attention in semiconductor technical and business communities, what’s going in power IC electronics is enjoying somewhat lesser exposure. It takes semiconductors with a  bandgap much wider than that of silicon to handle high temperature of operation, high power density, and voltages in kVolts regime and silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitrided (GaN) cope with the challenge very effectively.


The result is an impressive growth in wide bandgap semiconductor engineering. Progress in the size of commercially available substrate wafers is a good indicator of the "dynamics" within any given semiconductor sector. Some 12 years ago I was involved in research on the processing and characterization of SiC surfaces. My recollection is that the largest available SiC wafers at that time were 3 inch in diameter. However, because of their very high cost, basic research was commonly carried out on 2 inch SiC wafers (actually, quite often on the smaller pieces, we called them "coupons" cut out of 2 inch wafers). Well, it looks like the current power semiconductor industry standard are SiC wafers 150 mm (~6 inch) in diameter. Good going silicon carbide…

Posted by Jerzy Ruzyllo at 08:38 AM | Semiconductors | Link

Sunday, September 28, 2014

#306 Is there a role for tin?

In spite of sitting in the same group 14 of the periodic table of element as the elemental semiconductors carbon, silicon and germanium and featuring the same diamond crystal structure, tin (chemical symbol Sn because of its Latin name stannum) does not display semiconductor properties that would allow it on its own to be of use in the mainstream semiconductor device applications. With energy gap of just 0.1 eV and melting point of 232oC, tin does not offer much in this respect.


Well, it is not the end of the tin story, though. First, simulation and early experiments indicate that by forming a germanium-tin alloy, GeSn, with 3% of Sn added to Ge, a semiconductor which converts indirect bandgap of Ge into direct bandgap and increases hole mobility of Ge is formed. It certainly sounds interesting from both electronic and photonic potential applications point of view.


Second, a single layer of tin atoms called stanene (from stannum and graphene) should feature, according to theoretical physicists, outstanding electrical conductivity around room temperature potentially making it a great interconnect material in future generation ICs. While it all is still in an early stage of development the chances are that tin, a neglected in high end semiconductor applications group 14 element, will be attracting more attention as the time goes by.

Posted by Jerzy Ruzyllo at 07:48 AM | Semiconductors | Link

‹‹ ›› is the personal blog of Jerzy Ruzyllo. With over 35 years of experience in academic research and teaching in the area of semiconductor engineering (currently holding position of a Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Penn State University), he has a unique perspective on the developments in this progress driving technical domain and enjoys blogging about it.

With over 2000 terms defined and explained, Semiconductor Glossary is the most complete reference in the field of semiconductors on the market today.

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