Researchers have developed a relatively simple, robust and versatile process for growing crystals made from compound semiconductor materials that will allow them be integrated onto silicon wafers, which is an important step toward making future computer chips that will allow integrated circuits to continue shrinking in size and cost even as they increase in performance.
The work may allow an extension to Moore’s Law, the famous observation by Gordon Moore that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit doubles about every two years.
In recent years some in the industry have speculated that our ability to keep pace with Moore’s Law may become exhausted eventually unless new technologies come along that will lend it leash.
Lead author Heinz Schmid of IBM said that the whole semiconductor industry wants to keep Moore’s Law going. People need better performing transistors as they continue down-scaling, and transistors based on silicon won’t give us improvements anymore.
For consumers, extending Moore’s Law will mean continuing the trend of new computer devices having increasing speed and bandwidth at reduced power consumption and cost. The new technique may also impact photonics on silicon, with active photonic components integrated seamlessly with electronics for greater functionality.
The IBM team fabricated single crystal nanostructures, such as nanowires, nanostructures containing constrictions, and cross junctions, as well as 3-D stacked nanowires, made with so-called III-V materials.
Made from alloys of indium, gallium and arsenide, III-V semiconductors are seen as a possible future material for computer chips, but only if they can be successfully integrated onto silicon. So far efforts at integration have not been very successful.
The study appears in the journal Applied Physics Letters.