UK researchers unveil cheaper chip manufacture method


UK researchers unveil cheaper chip manufacture method

Antony Savvas

UK researchers say they have found a cheaper and more energy-efficient way to make computer chips.

Engineers at University College London (UCL) have found a way to use ultraviolet (UV) light instead of furnaces to create the silicon dioxide insulation layer on computer chips.

The breakthrough could lead to big energy savings for chip makers and ultimately lower prices for customers.

The film of silicon dioxide is an insulating layer and is where electrical circuits are later etched using photolithography.

Chip makers currently bake silicon wafers in furnaces at up to 1,000 degrees centigrade to create the necessary silicon dioxide layer.

UCL engineers have found a way to speed up the dioxide creation at room temperature using UV lamps.

Using this method they say they can create a suitable layer of dioxide in about the same amount of time it takes to blast the silicon in a furnace.

UCL said it could take several years before the technology was ready for commercial use however, as further testing was necessary.

Chip manufacturers have already been in touch with UCL about the process, said the university.

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