If the technology finds its way into commercial production, devices such as memory or processors could be produced faster and scaled down to smaller structures. The approach could also lead to storage products such as hard drives with greater capacities.
The method, developed at MIT by visiting doctoral student Amir Tavakkoli of the National University of Singapore, as well as two graduate students and under the leadership of three professors, the team was able to force self-assembling polymers not to create hexagonal shapes, but squares in the form of an array of tiny posts on the surface that guides the patterning of the self-assembling polymer molecules. The researchers found that they could use the same approach to build a variety of shapes of the material itself, including cylinders, spheres, ellipsoids and double cylinders.
Karl Berggren, co-author of a published paper and associate professor of electrical engineering at MIT, said that the team was able to achieve those shapes since “the template, which is coated so as to repel one of the polymer components, causes a lot of local strain on the pattern. The polymer then twists and turns to try to avoid this strain, and in so doing rearranges on the surface. So we can defeat the polymer’s natural inclinations, and make it create much more interesting patterns.”
Besides a possible time-to-market advantage the self-assembling method could have over electron-beam lithography (due to the fact that multiple shapes and patterns can be created simultaneously), the researchers said that their technology could also deliver finer chip structures with twice the feature density. It is a seen as a possible solution to integrate much more circuitry on any given space of a microchip. However, the self-assembling method is not limited to semiconductors. Magnetic media could also benefit from a much more granular pattern.