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Modified Household Microwave Oven Overcomes 2nm Semiconductor Hurdle

Microwave annealing for 2nm semiconductor materials
(Image credit: Cornell University)

Scientists at Cornell University have been using a modified household microwave oven to help overcome a significant obstacle to practical 2nm semiconductor production. The resulting microwave annealer borrows inspiration from TSMC’s theories about microwaves and silicon doping with phosphorus. As a result, semiconductor manufacturers could push past a previous phosphorus concentration limit using the newly devised equipment and techniques.

For semiconductor processes to continue shrinking, silicon must be doped with higher and higher phosphorus concentrations to facilitate accurate and stable current delivery. As things stand, with the industry starting mass production of 3nm components, traditional annealing methods are still working effectively. However, as the industry reaches beyond 3nm, concentrations of phosphorus that are higher than its equilibrium solubility in silicon need to be ensured. As well as achieving higher concentration levels, consistency is vital in making functional semiconductor materials.

TSMC had previously theorized that microwaves could be used in the annealing (heating) process to facilitate the increased doping concentrations of phosphorus. However, microwave heating sources previously tended to produce standing waves, which are bad for heating consistency. In simple terms, previous microwave annealing devices heated their contents unevenly.

(Image credit: Cornell University)

Cornell University scientists got the backing of TSMC, and the Ministry of Science and Technology of Taiwan, to conduct their research into microwave annealing. In their resulting scientific paper, shared by Cornell University earlier in the week, the scientists concluded they had “overcome the fundamental challenge for high yet stable doping above the solubility,” thanks to their advanced microwave annealing methods.

You can read in-depth about this research in the paper published by Applied Physics Letters dubbed “Efficient and stable activation by microwave annealing of nanosheet silicon doped with phosphorus above its solubility limit.” You will also note from the paper’s name that this annealing technique is good for the newest nanosheet transistor technology, where transistors are stacked in layers. TSMC has already stated it will use nanosheets at 2nm for producing gate-all-around field-effect transistors (GAAFETs).

The lead author of the paper, James Hwang, a research professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, told the Cornell news blog (opens in new tab), “This new microwave approach can potentially enable leading manufacturers such as TSMC and Samsung to scale down to just 2 nanometers.” The research is going to continue and already has further funding in place.

Mark Tyson
Freelance News Writer

Mark Tyson is a Freelance News Writer at Tom's Hardware US. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.

  • LuxZg
    "microwave heating sources previously tended to produce standing waves, which are bad for heating consistency. In simple terms, previous microwave annealing devices heated their contents unevenly"

    If they solved uneven heating of microwave, they should get further funding to fix the damn owens in the process. Burning one side of my food while other is still cold should be solved as a priority :p
    Reply
  • OriginFree
    LuxZg said:
    "microwave heating sources previously tended to produce standing waves, which are bad for heating consistency. In simple terms, previous microwave annealing devices heated their contents unevenly"

    If they solved uneven heating of microwave, they should get further funding to fix the damn owens in the process. Burning one side of my food while other is still cold should be solved as a priority :p


    Shoving 100+ billion transistors on a wafer the size of a pizza is one thing, getting a TV dinner to cook evenly is beyond the limits of human science. I mean that's Tardis level tech. :)
    Reply
  • warezme
    You would think it would be as easy as a couple of rotating wave reflectors out of phase.
    Reply
  • Kamen Rider Blade
    OriginFree said:
    Shoving 100+ billion transistors on a wafer the size of a pizza is one thing, getting a TV dinner to cook evenly is beyond the limits of human science. I mean that's Tardis level tech.
    No it isn't Tardis level tech. That's just ridiculous.

    You haven't met the right oven.

    Try GE's Advantium oven.
    The Advantium technology harnesses the power of convection cooking, light, and microwave to cook your food with incredible even-ness while retaining its original moisture. But that’s not all GE speed ovens have to offer.


    GE Advantium models offer Speedcooking, convection baking, broiling, toasting, warming, proofing, and traditional microwaving power.

    Speedcooking
    GE oven Speedcook feature is arguably the greatest advantage of their Advantium oven. It ensures that food cooks flawlessly at every power level, combining the halogen lamp, ceramic heater, and microwave energy for the perfect blend of cooking for the perfect doneness. You can either adjust power levels via the preset menu or adjust them manually.
    Reply
  • Josh Mahurin
    Kamen Rider Blade said:
    No it isn't Tardis level tech. That's just ridiculous.

    You haven't met the right oven.

    Try GE's Advantium oven.



    LMAO this is a real product amazing! I thought you just made this ad up but then I thought why not google it and lo and behold it's real...
    Reply
  • Kamen Rider Blade
    Josh Mahurin said:
    LMAO this is a real product amazing! I thought you just made this ad up but then I thought why not google it and lo and behold it's real...
    You should really try it out, it could be game changing for you.
    Reply
  • LuxZg
    Kamen Rider Blade said:
    You should really try it out, it could be game changing for you.
    Not available in my country 😢 maybe we should send one to TSMC?
    Reply
  • Kamen Rider Blade
    LuxZg said:
    Not available in my country 😢 maybe we should send one to TSMC?
    I'm sure you could find a friend/vendor in the US who would be willing to ship to your country.
    Reply