New Research Seeks to Enhance Speed and Quality of Semiconductor Devices

RIT and AmberWave Systems will work to advance the use of Aspect Ratio Trapping

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Rochester Institute of Technology and AmberWave Systems, a leader in the research, development and licensing of advanced technologies for semiconductor manufacturing, are collaborating on new research that has the potential to revolutionize the semiconductor industry. The partnership seeks to integrate compound semiconductor devices on silicon using an innovative technique called Aspect Ratio Trapping, also known as ART, an initial development by AmberWave. Their research is being funded through a three-year research grant from the National Science Foundation.

ART is a technology that may open the door to faster, more powerful chips, which could find their way into a wide range of applications, from silicon-based photonics to improved photovoltaic cells. In the case of silicon photonics, ART could allow manufacturers to combine different materials onto a silicon base, forming chips that use light pulses to carry data, similar to fiber optic technology. The result is increased speed of data transmission which would be much faster than today’s current systems allow.

“This award plays on the value of industry and university collaboration and the demonstrated strengths of AmberWave in the area of epitaxial thin film electronic materials. It also highlights RIT’s Microelectronics researchers in the area of integrating novel materials into mainstream silicon microelectronics devices to enhance performance,” says Dr. Donald Boyd, vice president for research at RIT.

“The joint venture between RIT and AmberWave is an example of our interest in cultivating technology from the ground level up,” notes Richard Faubert, president and CEO of AmberWave Systems. “We are extremely enthusiastic about what the partnership will bring to the advancement of semiconductor devices.”

The semiconductor materials being investigated under this project, also known as III-V materials because of their location on the Periodic Table, have been used for years in niche markets, requiring extreme high-speed performance, optical properties, and/or radio frequency properties. However, they have seen little market penetration for more mainstream applications due to high costs and difficulty in integration with conventional, inexpensive silicon electronics. However, ART would allow manufacturers to capitalize on their investments in current manufacturing technologies, reducing costs considerably and allowing the devices to be included in a wide range of products at consumer-friendly prices.

“This research has the potential to seamlessly integrate III-V and silicon microelectronics to retain the best properties of each, opening up the possibility for truly massive speed improvements in memory and processor chips, integrated silicon-photonic devices for ultra-high bandwidth fiber-optic communications, and novel radio frequency chips for wireless communications,” Boyd adds.

The principal investigators working on this collaboration are Professors Santosh Kurinec, Sean Rommel and Karl Hirschman of RIT’s Department of Microelectronic Engineering and the effort will be assisted by several RIT student researchers including Stuart Sieg, Raymond Krom, and David Pawlik.