As electronics devices become smaller and smaller, the challenges faced when designing them become questions of scale. Semiconductors, for example, have a thin, 35-angstrom layer of silicon dioxide used as an insulating material. As the chips get smaller, the insulating material must also proportionally shrink. But once the thickness falls below 20 angstroms, the silicon layer is no longer an effective insulator. Researchers at Motorola, Pacific Northwest National Labs, and Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) are joining forces for development of new insulating materials from crystalline oxides on silicons that are expected to have higher dielectric strengths and higher capacitance. "We are able to eliminate one of the hurdles to continuing the current rate of growth in the semiconductor industry," says Rodney McKee, a researcher at ORNL Metals and Ceramics Div. "If Moore's Law continues to hold true, we'll need the new insulating materials in just a few years." For more information, call Jan Haerer at (865) 241-7613.
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