1 September 2002
Electronics production may get a boost
Corvallis, Ore.—Crystalline oxide films, which are key in the production of semiconductor chips, flat-panel displays, and other electronic products, may soon be much easier to make, said scientists at Oregon State University.
Oregon State scientists found a way to create these crystalline thin films at temperatures far lower than those used currently and with no need to produce them in a vacuum, as the current technology requires. The scientists applied for a patent on the new process.
This move may open applications in the electronics, computer, and high-technology industries, making new products possible or lowering the cost of those already created.
"This is a general method of producing oxide films that could bring down manufacturing costs tremendously and change the way many electronic or photonic products are created," said Douglas Keszler, an Oregon State chemistry professor. "It's a real breakthrough that could shake up a few people in the high-tech and thin film industries. There should be quite a bit of interest."
Keszler said electronic or photonic devices contain crystalline oxide films that can conduct electricity, serve as insulators, or have desirable optical properties.
To achieve crystallinity, it's usually necessary to manufacture the films in high vacuum conditions and at extraordinarily high temperatures of more than 1,800°F. To achieve vacuum conditions and high temperatures, you need expensive, sophisticated equipment.
By contrast, the new approach Oregon State scientists and engineers discovered uses a simple water-based chemistry to deposit and crystallize these films at dramatically lower temperatures: about 250°F, or just slightly hotter than boiling water. No vacuum is necessary.
"We found that you can take certain materials that contain water and let them dehydrate slowly and at low temperatures and still observe crystallinity," Keszler said.
"It's always difficult to predict exactly how a new technology will be received and used in manufacturing products," said study coauthor and professor of electrical and computer engineering John Wager.
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