Graphene used to create cheaper semiconductor wafers

MIT engineers have developed a technique to reduce the overall cost of wafer technology by using graphene as a copy machine to transfer intricate crystalline patterns from an underlying semiconductor wafer to a top layer of identical material.

04/23/2017


(Left to right): Postdoc Kyusang Lee, Professor Jeehwan Kim (sitting), and graduate students Samuel Cruz and Yunjo Kim, who developed a technique to reduce the overall cost of wafer technology by using graphene as a copy machine to transfer intricate crysIn 2016, annual global semiconductor sales reached their highest-ever point, at $339 billion worldwide. In that same year, the semiconductor industry spent about $7.2 billion worldwide on wafers that serve as the substrates for microelectronics components, which can be turned into transistors, light-emitting diodes, and other electronic and photonic devices.

A new technique developed by MIT engineers may vastly reduce the overall cost of wafer technology and enable devices made from more exotic, higher-performing semiconductor materials than conventional silicon. The method uses graphene as a sort of "copy machine" to transfer intricate crystalline patterns from an underlying semiconductor wafer to a top layer of identical material.

The engineers worked out carefully controlled procedures to place single sheets of graphene onto an expensive wafer. They then grew semiconducting material over the graphene layer. They found that graphene is thin enough to appear electrically invisible, allowing the top layer to see through the graphene to the underlying crystalline wafer, imprinting its patterns without being influenced by the graphene.

Graphene is also rather "slippery" and does not tend to stick to other materials easily, enabling the engineers to simply peel the top semiconducting layer from the wafer after its structures have been imprinted.

Jeehwan Kim, the class of 1947 career development assistant professor in the departments of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering, says that in conventional semiconductor manufacturing, the wafer, once its crystalline pattern is transferred, is so strongly bonded to the semiconductor that it is almost impossible to separate without damaging both layers."You end up having to sacrifice the wafer—it becomes part of the device," Kim said.

With the group's new technique, Kim said manufacturers can now use graphene as an intermediate layer, allowing them to copy and paste the wafer, separate a copied film from the wafer, and reuse the wafer many times over. In addition to saving on the cost of wafers, Kim says this opens opportunities for exploring more exotic semiconductor materials.

"The industry has been stuck on silicon, and even though we've known about better performing semiconductors, we haven't been able to use them, because of their cost," Kim said. "This gives the industry freedom in choosing semiconductor materials by performance and not cost."

Graphene shift

This image shows LEDs grown on graphene and then peeled. Courtesy: MITSince graphene's discovery in 2004, researchers have been investigating its exceptional electrical properties in hopes of improving the performance and cost of electronic devices. Graphene is an extremely good conductor of electricity, as electrons flow through graphene with virtually no friction. Researchers, therefore, have been intent on finding ways to adapt graphene as a cheap, high-performance semiconducting material.

"People were so hopeful that we might make really fast electronic devices from graphene," Kim said. "But it turns out it's really hard to make a good graphene transistor."

In order for a transistor to work, it must be able to turn a flow of electrons on and off, to generate a pattern of ones and zeros, instructing a device on how to carry out a set of computations. As it happens, it is very hard to stop the flow of electrons through graphene, making it an excellent conductor but a poor semiconductor.

Kim's group took an entirely new approach to using graphene in semiconductors. Instead of focusing on graphene's electrical properties, the researchers looked at the material's mechanical features.

"We've had a strong belief in graphene, because it is a very robust, ultrathin, material and forms very strong covalent bonding between its atoms in the horizontal direction," Kim said. "Interestingly, it has very weak Van der Waals forces, meaning it doesn't react with anything vertically, which makes graphene's surface very slippery."

Copy and peel

A nickel film peel-off from a silicon wafer demonstrates the concept of using a 2-D-material-based transfer process for wafers. Courtesy: Jose-Luis Olivares, MITThe team reported that graphene can be sandwiched between a wafer and its semiconducting layer, providing a barely perceptible, nonstick surface through which the semiconducting material's atoms can still rearrange in the pattern of the wafer's crystals. The material, once imprinted, can simply be peeled off from the graphene surface, allowing manufacturers to reuse the original wafer.

The team found that its technique, which they term "remote epitaxy," was successful in copying and peeling off layers of semiconductors from the same semiconductor wafers. The researchers had success in applying their technique to exotic wafer and semiconducting materials, including indium phosphide, gallium arsenenide, and gallium phosphide—materials that are 50 to 100 times more expensive than silicon.

Kim said this technique makes it possible for manufacturers to reuse wafers—of silicon and higher-performing materials—"conceptually, ad infinitum."

An exotic future

The group's graphene-based peel-off technique may also advance the field of flexible electronics. In general, wafers are very rigid, making the devices they are fused to similarly inflexible. Kim says now, semiconductor devices such as LEDs and solar cells can be made to bend and twist. In fact, the group demonstrated this possibility by fabricating a flexible LED display, patterned in the MIT logo, using their technique.

"Let's say you want to install solar cells on your car, which is not completely flat—the body has curves," Kim said. "Can you coat your semiconductor on top of it? It's impossible now, because it sticks to the thick wafer. Now, we can peel off, bend, and you can do conformal coating on cars, and even clothing."

Going forward, the researchers plan to design a reusable "mother wafer" with regions made from different exotic materials. Using graphene as an intermediary, they hope to create multifunctional, high-performance devices. They are also investigating mixing and matching various semiconductors and stacking them up as a multimaterial structure.

"Now, exotic materials can be popular to use," Kim said. "You don't have to worry about the cost of the wafer. Let us give you the copy machine. You can grow your semiconductor device, peel it off, and reuse the wafer."

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

www.mit.edu 

- Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media,  cvavra@cfemedia.com. See more Control Engineering energy and power stories.



Engineers' Choice Awards
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by Control Engineering subscribers.
System Integrator Giants
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
Design of Safe and Reliable Hydraulic Systems for Subsea Applications
This eGuide explains how the operation of hydraulic systems for subsea applications requires the user to consider additional aspects because of the unique conditions that apply to the setting
How to Maximize Factory Automation Efficiency with Low Cost Machine Vision
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Wireless Reliability in Harsh Environments
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
October 2018
HMI hardware evolution, Data acquisition strategies, Matching motors and drives, Machine vision advice
September 2018
Optimize controls via cloud software, ladder logic simulation, industrial wireless best practices
August 2018
Augmented reality and virtual reality education, autotuning PID control, cybersecurity advice, educating engineers
Edge Computing
This article collection contains several articles on how today's technologies heap benefits onto an edge-computing architecture such as faster computing, better networking, more memory, smarter analytics, cloud-based intelligence, and lower costs.
Data Center Design
Data centers, data closets, edge and cloud computing, co-location facilities, and similar topics are among the fastest-changing in the industry.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
SIDB

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

October 2018
2018 Product of the Year; Subsurface data methodologies; Digital twins; Well lifecycle data
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, progressive cavity pumps
John O. Ayuk, PE, CFSE, PMP, CAP
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
Doug Baker
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
Engineers' Choice Awards
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by Control Engineering subscribers.
System Integrator Giants
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
Design of Safe and Reliable Hydraulic Systems for Subsea Applications
This eGuide explains how the operation of hydraulic systems for subsea applications requires the user to consider additional aspects because of the unique conditions that apply to the setting
How to Maximize Factory Automation Efficiency with Low Cost Machine Vision
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Wireless Reliability in Harsh Environments
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
October 2018
HMI hardware evolution, Data acquisition strategies, Matching motors and drives, Machine vision advice
September 2018
Optimize controls via cloud software, ladder logic simulation, industrial wireless best practices
August 2018
Augmented reality and virtual reality education, autotuning PID control, cybersecurity advice, educating engineers
Edge Computing
This article collection contains several articles on how today's technologies heap benefits onto an edge-computing architecture such as faster computing, better networking, more memory, smarter analytics, cloud-based intelligence, and lower costs.
Data Center Design
Data centers, data closets, edge and cloud computing, co-location facilities, and similar topics are among the fastest-changing in the industry.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
SIDB

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

October 2018
2018 Product of the Year; Subsurface data methodologies; Digital twins; Well lifecycle data
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, progressive cavity pumps
John O. Ayuk, PE, CFSE, PMP, CAP
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
Doug Baker
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
Engineers' Choice Awards
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by Control Engineering subscribers.
System Integrator Giants
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
Design of Safe and Reliable Hydraulic Systems for Subsea Applications
This eGuide explains how the operation of hydraulic systems for subsea applications requires the user to consider additional aspects because of the unique conditions that apply to the setting
How to Maximize Factory Automation Efficiency with Low Cost Machine Vision
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Wireless Reliability in Harsh Environments
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
October 2018
HMI hardware evolution, Data acquisition strategies, Matching motors and drives, Machine vision advice
September 2018
Optimize controls via cloud software, ladder logic simulation, industrial wireless best practices
August 2018
Augmented reality and virtual reality education, autotuning PID control, cybersecurity advice, educating engineers
Edge Computing
This article collection contains several articles on how today's technologies heap benefits onto an edge-computing architecture such as faster computing, better networking, more memory, smarter analytics, cloud-based intelligence, and lower costs.
Data Center Design
Data centers, data closets, edge and cloud computing, co-location facilities, and similar topics are among the fastest-changing in the industry.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
SIDB

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

October 2018
2018 Product of the Year; Subsurface data methodologies; Digital twins; Well lifecycle data
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, progressive cavity pumps
John O. Ayuk, PE, CFSE, PMP, CAP
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
Doug Baker
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me