Aust scientists crack crystal conundrum

Plate of electronic components - Close-up of electronic circuit board

Sydney

(Australian Associated Press)

Lightning-quick computing could be just a few years away after an international team of scientists discovered a new way to grow microchip-friendly crystals.

Australian, Belgian and Singaporean scientists have used vapour, as opposed to liquid, to grow “Metal Organic Frameworks” (MOFs) capable of insulating microchips.

It is the first time scientists have successfully grown this crystal without using liquid solvent.

CSIRO researcher Mark Styles said MOFs were more effective insulators than the traditionally-used silicon dioxide, and could be made much thinner without losing potency.

This means engineers can squeeze more wires into a microchip and improve circuit speeds.

He said the development was years in the making.

“People have been looking for ways of doing vapour-based deposition for three or four years now because they’ve realised its potential,” Dr Styles said.

Dr Styles said the new process was much more compatible with industry needs.

“If you wanted to incorporate these materials into things that are sensitive to liquid, like electronics, you’d have trouble,” he said.

“It can corrode and damage the delicate circuitry.

“Our new vapour method overcomes this barrier.”

Dr Styles said it would be at least five years before it became industry-viable.

The team’s findings are published in the Nature Materials journal.

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