Nanofabrication and Microstructure Engineering Focus Area
Structures and devices with nanometer or molecular-size dimensions are being designed and fabricated. Examples include the use of polymer molecules to modify the properties of the surfaces of biological materials, surface modifications using cluster beams and ferromagnetic nanoparticles, and micromachining of glass and silicon to develop novel optical, mechanical, and thermal properties.
An example of the research in this focus area is a fundamental study of a phenomenon known as electromigration, described below.
The application of a current to a conductor causes some of the atoms to migrate in the direction of the current flow; this phenomenon is called electromigration. Although the effect is negligible in macroscopic systems such as wires, it can cause failure in the microscopic circuits found in computer chips, especially as circuits have decreased in size. Professors David Heskett and Michael Tammaro, both of the Physics Department, and Dr. Michael Briere of Cherry Semiconductor Corp. have teamed up to study the fundamental mechanisms underlying electromigration. With students Keith Aubin, Andrew Merrdinyan, and Brian Setlik, these researchers have established models that describe electromigration as a function of temperature, current density, and size of the conductor. The microscopy laboratory maintained by the SST has been especially useful for this study, because the researchers have been able to record a video of a pristine integrated circuit interconnect driven to failure by current flow.
This research is supported in part by Cherry Semiconductor Corporation and the National Science Foundation.