UV trick oxidizes silicon at room temperature

UV trick oxidizes silicon at room temperature


Sometimes, less can be more. That is the argument that powered a computer chip creation at a U.K. university lab recently.

Room temperature were the key words in the experiment done at University College London, in which ultraviolet lamps produced silicon dioxide. That’s a far cry from the 1,000-degree-centrigrade blast furnaces that are currently required to manufacture the transistor insulator.

The key in this new technique was a special kind of lamp that emits deep UV 126-nanometer-length waves, causing oxygen molecule dissociation that makes available atoms that oxidize silicon at room temperature.

It’s not the end-all, of course, because computer chips require pure silicon atoms, not exactly what our London technique is manufacturing; yet the research is helpful on the road to smaller and smaller yet more powerful chips. The most significant element in all this is the tremendous cut in the amount of energy needed.

Much is left to do in order to produce defect-free silicon; but this research suggests that if it can be done this way, it will be done with significantly less energy use (and waste).