Atomic Precision: There’s Still Plenty of Room at the Bottom
In Richard Feynman’s prescient 1959 speech “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom”, he conjectured that the digital atomic nature of matter presented vast untapped potential for information storage. The development of the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) in the early 1980’s at IBM Zurich, and ‘IBM’ written with 35 Xenon atoms in 1990 by Don Eigler at IBM Almaden ushered in the modern era of nanotechnology. Paralleling this, steady progress in semiconductor technology, following Moore’s Law, has led to commercial chip technology with 14 nanometer feature sizes; a distance spanned by about 35 silicon atoms.
The convergence of these parallel paths forms the basis of our research at Beckman, where we are exploring atomically precise fabrication on silicon surfaces. To this end, we have developed the ability to pattern silicon with single atom precision using a STM. This talk will show how we do this as well as the unexpected spin-off that has led to the use of deuterium in current chip production. We are now combining our ‘top-down’ atomic precision STM work with ‘bottom-up’ atomically precise structures. Specifically, carbon nanotubes and graphene nanoribbons are being actively considered as the core transistor structures for future chip technologies. We have developed methods to integrate and study these carbon-based systems with conventional semiconductors like silicon.
We have also developed a method to link carbon nanotubes for improved performance of composite materials, and we have invented a process for making STM probes that has been commercialized by Tiptek for semiconductor companies to use in probing their advanced chip technologies.