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Sharpening the Lines

By MIT News

December 16, 2011

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Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Utah have developed a technique that they say surpasses the fundamental limits of microchip design and could lead to more computational power being packed into future electronic devices. The technique allows the production of complex shapes instead of just lines, and can be carried out using less expensive light sources and conventional chip-manufacturing equipment, says MIT's Trisha Andrew.

The system relies on a combination of interface patterns between two light sources and a photochromatic material that changes color when illuminated by a beam of light. The pattern transferred to the chip can be etched away with a chemical, leaving a mask that can control where light passes through the layer. Andrew says the system uses "a materials approach, combined with sophisticated optics, to get large-scale patterning."

The key to the technique is the stimulated emission depletion imaging effect, which uses fluorescent materials that emit light when illuminated by a laser beam. Andrew says the technique also could be applied to other advanced technologies, such as the production of photonic devices.

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