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2D Printing Technique for Integrated Circuits
2D Printing Technique for Integrated Circuits
By creating many layers of incredibly thin electronic chips on the same surface, 2D printing dramatically increases processing power and reduces costs.
Technology Briefing

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The electronics industry has hit a barrier. Just as the fundamental technology of car engines has not progressed since 1920, the same is happening to electronics. Mobile phones and computers are no more powerful in 2017 than in 2012.

That is why a new 2D printing technique, explained recently in Nature Communications, is so important. By creating many layers of incredibly thin electronic chips on the same surface this breakthrough technology dramatically increases processing power and reduces costs.

It will allow for the next revolution in electronics. It uses liquid metals to create integrated circuits that are just atoms thick, potentially leading to the next big advance for electronics. It could also produce materials that were extremely bendable, paving the way for flexible electronics.

Specifically, the process opens the way for the production of large wafers, that are just 1.5 nanometres in depth; for comparison, a sheet of paper is 100,000 nanometres thick.

Other techniques have proven:
  • Unreliable in terms of quality
  • Difficult to scale up
  • Functional only at very high temperatures of 550-degrees C or more

More importantly, none of the current technologies are able to create homogenous surfaces of atomically thin semiconductors on large surface areas that are useful for the industrial-scale fabrication of chips.

The solution is to use the metals gallium and indium, which have a low melting point. These metals produce an atomically thin layer of oxide on their surface that naturally protects them. It is this thin oxide which the researchers uses in their fabrication method.

By rolling the liquid metal, the oxide layer can be transferred onto an electronic wafer, which is then sulphurized. And, the surface of the wafer is pre-treated to form individual transistors. The researchers used this novel method to create transistors and photo-detectors of very high gain and very high fabrication reliability in large scale.
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