Annual Report FY 2004 - Research at Cornell

18. Debugging New Semiconductor Materials

David A. Muller, Applied and Engineering Physics, and University of Tokyo research colleague Harold Hwang discovered that it is possible to precisely control the electronic properties of a complex material—which could be a replacement for silicon insulators—at the nanoscale and without chemicals by creating empty spaces (or vacancies) that act as electron-donating dopants. The researchers found a way of seeing the vacancies inside complex oxides and controlling where the vacancies are. Missing atoms can change the properties of a material dramatically. Complex oxides easily lose a few oxygen atoms, making the material leaky and defective when exposed to electric fields. Manipulating at the single-atom scale the electronic properties of oxides for semiconductors will be important for debugging the new semiconductor materials and the first step in making devices from strontium titanate—a titanium-containing material that is the simplest of the complex oxides and the one that can be made in the largest quantities. The finding brings the replacement of silicon in transistors closer to becoming reality.

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