HP is beginning to reap returns from its ten-year investment in nanoscale electronics with the licensing of technology that could enable the fabrication of semiconductor chips significantly more powerful than those available today.
The technology involves a process called nanoimprint lithography (NIL) – a method of literally stamping out patterns of wires less than fifty atoms wide on a substrate. HP Labs researchers have created patented NIL technology, which has enabled the fabrication of laboratory prototype circuits with wire widths of fifteen nanometers.
Once the NIL master is created, copies can be stamped out quickly and inexpensively, like manufacturing CDs or phonograph records. The patterns are then filled in with metals.
HP has licensed the technology to Nanolithosolutions, which has developed a tool based on HP's technology. The tool consists of a module that fits into a mask aligne, used to create the patterns for wires and transistors on a substrate.
Pictured above: HP Labs researcher Wei Wu examines a device for creating future nanoscale computing chips with Bo Pi of Nanolithosystems.
"By building on HP's extensive research in nanoimprint lithography, we believe we have a tool that will enable reliable, repeatable processes for exploring biochips, photonics chips and many other applications," said Bo Pi.
Nanolithosolutions was created by Pi and Yong Chen, a UCLA professor and former member of HP Labs.
"Because HP and other companies need unique tools to conduct nanoscale research and development, we created the underlying technology that makes this tool possible," said Stan Williams, director of HP's Quantum Science Research. "But we rely on innovative companies like Nanolithosolutions to do the additional engineering necessary to make user-friendly tools commercially available. This will help create future generations of chips that will go beyond the capabilities of today's fabrication technologies."