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AMRC Research Leads to Promising Nanotechnology Application for Chip Industry

AUSTIN, TX -- (MARKET WIRE) -- 02/23/2005 -- Using technical resources at the recently opened Advanced Materials Research Center, Austin-based Xidex Corporation and SEMATECH have developed one of Texas' first commercial applications of nanotechnology for semiconductor production.

The process uses carbon nanotubes (CNTs) as surface sensors for scanning probe microscopes (SPMs), which can peer down to the level of molecules and groups of atoms, and which can be used to measure the dimensions of extremely small features in semiconductor devices. Individual CNTs are hollow tubes formed by hexagons of carbon atoms, and are about 10,000 times thinner than a human hair. Single CNT tips are grown to customer specifications directly on commercially available silicon SPM cantilevers.

The accomplishment gives chip-makers the much-needed ability to measure devices as small as 1 nanometer (nm) and strengthens the industry's ability to produce advanced semiconductors at the 32 nm technology node. Xidex produced the CNT tips in collaboration with the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at The University of Texas at Austin (UT) and tested them using SEMATECH facilities.

The work is being done with AMRC funding, under a contract with SEMATECH. The AMRC was launched in March 2004 by the State of Texas and SEMATECH to work with the UT System and other Texas universities in investigating promising new semiconductor technologies that will ensure the state's high-tech future.

"Our objective is to assure a supply of commercially available CNT tips for our member companies by working with Xidex to scale up their proprietary CNT tip process," said John Allgair, a SEMATECH lithography metrology program manager. "This project is an ideal fit for the AMRC because it involves a Texas-based nanotechnology company with significant job-creation potential, actively collaborating with a state university."

Allgair said the project will reinforce the ability of atomic force microscopy (AFM) to enhance device engineering and volume production for future technology nodes, where small-diameter CNT tips of 1 to 20 nm will be required. AFM, a form of SPM, is making the transition to semiconductor manufacturing.

"Carbon nanotube tips will make AFMs much more effective as laboratory diagnostic tools, and also give them the capability needed for in-line metrology on the production floor," said Vladimir Mancevski, Xidex founder and Chief Technology Officer, who invented the company's patented CNT tip-manufacturing process.

Mancevski added, "The nanotube tip needs to have the right diameter, and be oriented properly. Most importantly, it must be grown by design and not by chance, and the process must scale to allow batch production of many tips at the same time."

"This is the key to making well-defined ultrahigh-resolution SPM tips for critical dimension metrology applications," said Dr. Keith J. Stevenson, assistant professor and Jack S. Josey Fellow in Energy Studies in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UT. "Xidex's process allows for great control over the CNT tip structure such as diameter, length and orientation, which is crucial for the uses desired by SEMATECH's member companies. Since these CNT tips are electronically conductive and can also be chemically modified, it is also quite possible to manufacture specialized tips for advanced electrical and chemical testing."

Compared to conventional silicon tips, CNT tips can be made with much smaller end radii and very high aspect ratios, enabling them to reach into the difficult-to-access spaces between microscopic features, Xidex officials explained. CNT tips are also extremely wear-resistant compared to silicon tips, extending their useful life and enabling higher-precision measurements, officials said.

"The time is right to introduce commercially available CNT tips for widespread use," said Paul F. McClure, Xidex's President and CEO. "Xidex is currently focused on CNT tips for semiconductor industry applications. We are starting with tips for depth measurements and will expand to meet our customers' other advanced metrology needs."

McClure added, "The margins generated by these high-end applications will help fund additional new product development. This will let us make CNT tips attractive to a wider customer base at more attractive prices. We plan to make carbon nanotube tips available commercially this year."

"Commercialization of CNT tips for scanning probe tools will be done exclusively by Xidex," McClure continued. "Other applications, to be developed over a longer term, may involve partnerships. We look forward to establishing a track record as one of the first Texas-based companies to generate real economic growth by manufacturing and selling nanotechnology-based products in collaboration with SEMATECH."

Note to editors: illustration available from dan.mcgowan@sematech.org.

About the AMRC

The AMRC focuses on leading-edge materials and capabilities for next-generation semiconductors, as well as cutting-edge research in nanotechnology, biotechnology, and other related advanced high-tech areas. The aim of the five-year AMRC effort is to accelerate the commercialization of critical technology research that economists believe will generate the industries, careers, and tax revenue of the future. For details, contact media.relations@sematech.org

About Xidex

Xidex Corporation is an Austin-based nanotechnology company in the business of developing carbon nanotube based mechanical, electrical and logic devices together with micro- and macro-scale products that incorporate these nanodevices. The company's first products are carbon nanotube tips for scanning probe microscopes. Other products in development include high-resolution, high-sensitivity CNT probes for nuclear magnetic resonance imaging in the biological and semiconductor industries. In 1997 Xidex was first to propose a method of growing a carbon nanotube directly on an AFM tip. Since then, the company has executed several projects funded by the National Science Foundation, the Army Research Office, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and SEMATECH. The intellectual property required for the CNT tips is protected by fundamental issued and pending Xidex patents with early priority dates. Additional information is available at www.xidex.com.

About UT-Chemistry and Biochemistry

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at The University of Texas at Austin offers opportunities for world-class research across a broad range of chemical and biochemical fields. The department of nearly 50 faculty members has reputation for excellence in teaching in addition to research. Recent rankings position it as one of the top chemistry departments in the country for graduate programs and funding for research and development. Additional information may be found at http://www.cm.utexas.edu/.

About SEMATECH

SEMATECH is a global semiconductor technology development consortium that has effectively represented the semiconductor manufacturing industry on innovation issues since 1988. SEMATECH conducts state-of-the-art research, and is a highly-regarded technology partner whose goal is to promote the interests common to all chipmakers. It has extensive experience collaborating with equipment and materials suppliers, as well as government and academic research centers, to refine the tools and technology necessary to produce future generations of chips. Additional information may be found at www.sematech.org. SEMATECH, the SEMATECH logo, AMRC, Advanced Materials Research Center, ATDF, the ATDF logo, Advanced Technology Development Facility, ISMI and International SEMATECH Manufacturing Initiative are servicemarks of SEMATECH, Inc. All other servicemarks and trademarks are the property of their respective owners.


University of Texas contact:
Timothy F. Green
512-475-6596
timgreen@mail.utexas.edu

Xidex contact:
Dr. Paul F. McClure
512-339-0608
pfm@xidex.com

SEMATECH contact:
Dan Mcgowan
512-356-3440
dan.mcgowan@sematech.org


SOURCE: SEMATECH

 

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