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Thursday, February 22, 2007
Korean Researchers to Develop 10nm Semiconductors


Korean researchers are close to develop semiconductors adopting the 10-nanometer manufacturing process. These semiconductors based on carbon nanotubes that could boost the capacity of Flash memory cards.

The new semiconductors are the one-sixth the size of semiconductors in mass-produced micro-processors today (65 nm) and measure only one-12,000th the width of a human hair, the Korean Times reports. Flash memory cards using the ultra-slim technology would be be able to store up to 100GB of data.

Leading the project are Prof. Choi Hee-cheul of Pohang University of Science and Technology and Kim Hyun-tak of the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI).

Choi employed carbon nanotubes to successfully etch circuits that are thinner than 10 nanometers on the face of silicon wafers.

"As far as we know, we broke a 10-nanometer barrier for the first time in history. We could make the breakthrough after finding unique surface chemical reactions of carbon nanotubes," Choi said.

"We hope this carbon nanotube-based technology will help crank out 10-nanometer memory chips. Toward that end, we are currently cooperating with U.S. venture start-ups," he added.

The findings were featured in Nature Nanotechnology this week.

Carbon nanotubes are cylindrical carbon molecules, which are on the order of merely a few nanometers wide. They are called magical materials because of their distinctive physical and chemical properties.

Kim Hyun-tak at the state-run ETRI is working on a new substance dubbed a Mott insulator, which instantly changes from a conductive metal to an insulator.

Kim hopes the insulator, which he and his men created in 2004 after years of experiments, will break the technical stagnation in making semiconductors with circuits slimmer than 10 nanometers.

"The 20th century was an age of semiconductors and this century will be one of Mott insulators. These materials will open up an enormous market," Kim said.

Korea has led the race of producing microprocessors with very thin circuits. Samsung unveilled last week a 40-nanometer technology, the charge trap flash, midway through last week. The company said the innovative technologies are scalable to sub-20 nanometer but the company has yet to discover alternative systems in order to break through the 10-nanometer limitation.


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