Ars Technica is reporting on a new technique that researchers at Epson have developed to manufacture semiconductors. They liken it to spray painting chips:
Their approach is to use either a “spray painting” technique or ink jet deposition to grow features. They have designed an organo-silicon molecule, which readily dissolves in common solvents. This molecule is then deposited by either a spraying or ink jet technique on a silicon substrate to form the semiconductor features. The whole wafer is then heated causing the organic molecules to decompose and form amorphous silicon. The amorphous silicon can then be converted to crystalline silicon by irradiation with standard UV lasers. So far, researchers have managed to demonstrate a proof-of-concept by growing thin film transistors used for controlling the pixels on LCD displays.
They are currently able to produce chips at feature size of 250nm. Not bad for a first shot. And that number is bound to come down with more research. It’ll be interesting to see if anything comes of it.