Consortium to Re-Energize Semiconductor Research
Wafer Engineering Center Seeking Ways to Further Shrink Size of Circuit Chips
Sept. 8, 2009
UT Dallas is the new home of a consortium dedicated to making technological advances in the silicon wafer that is the foundation for most of the semiconductor chips that surround us.
“This is a great opportunity to further enhance our faculty members’ and graduate students’ impact on the future development of semiconductor technology,” said Moon Kim, director of the center and a professor of materials science and engineering. The field is a fast-growing area at the University that now includes 14 faculty members, dozens of graduate students and several million dollars in annual research funding.
Dr. Kim believes the Silicon Wafer Engineering and Defect Science Center, known as SiWEDS, is poised to play a significant role in semiconductor development.
That’s because the ability to further shrink the size of the features on the chips – making chips smaller, faster and more energy-efficient – is running up against limitations imposed by the laws of physics, and wafer technology is one promising area for maintaining the steady march in semiconductor advances.
“As the improvements in semiconductor device performance for successive generations can no longer be derived from feature size scaling alone, increasing emphasis is being placed on materials engineering to address this gap,” said Rick Wise, a Texas Instruments Fellow who has encouraged Dr. Kim to bring SiWEDS to UT Dallas. “University research funded by the SiWEDS consortia of industrial semiconductor wafer suppliers and integrated device manufacturers will contribute to these important and necessary advances in semiconductor wafer materials technology.”
SiWEDS research focuses on four major interrelated tasks:
- Understanding surface defects and contamination of silicon wafers.
- Eliminating surface defects that interfere with the functionality of semiconductors.
- Better understanding wafers and alternate substrates such as silicon-on-insulator and strained silicon.
- Developing new techniques for characterizing the structure and behavior of materials.
In addition to UT Dallas, SiWEDS includes researchers from Arizona State University, MIT, Stanford, the University of Washington, North Carolina State University and the University of California, Berkeley, as well as universities in Korea and Japan. Corporate members include MEMC Electronic Materials, Intel, Samsung Electronics, Hynix Semiconductor, Soitech, Siltronic and the Semiconductor Research Corp.
Originally a National Science Foundation-supported industry/university cooperative research center, SiWEDS has graduated to become a freestanding center supported by its university and corporate members. It was previously based at North Carolina State prior to Dr. Kim assuming the role of director earlier this year.
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