Irish researchers make significant breakthrough in semiconductor production

5 Feb 2014

Mahdi Shirazi with team leader, Dr Simon Elliot

A team from the Tyndall National Institute in Cork has produced the world’s first atom-by-atom simulation of nanoscale film which could revolutionise silicon chip production.

Using a technique known as atomic layer disposition (ALD), the team led by Dr Simon Elliot created the simulation of the thin-film technology that is used in nearly every device that we own today and each chip comprises multiples of these layers, each providing different functions.

Once the team’s simulation is a physical reality, silicon chips can become even smaller and more powerful, as well as other technologies like solar cells and LED lighting.

For the first time, the Irish team combined the accuracy from the quantum mechanical level with the statistics needed to follow how thousands of atoms react millions of times a second, building up layers of material, as in the lab. 

The success of this work can be laid firmly in the hands of one team member, Mahdi Shirazi, who will soon be awarded a PhD for his work with the project.

He believes this discovery and simulation was a necessary step for the development of ALD silicon chips: “It was crucial to model the complete set of all ALD reactions, hundreds of them, at the quantum mechanical level and then carefully extract the information that was needed for the growth simulations.”

The Cork-based institute was founded in 2004 as a successor to the National Microelectronics Research Centre at University College Cork (UCC) and employs more than 460 researchers, engineers and support staff. 

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic