Chip off the new block

Researchers try enhancing the capacitance of microelectronic capacitors

Published: Sunday 31 December 1995

-- THE microelectronic revolution that we've witnessed during the past decade has simultaneously aimed at miniaturising the components of a circuit as well as enhancing its performance. For instance, the Intel Pentium microprocessor is about twice as powerful as the now vintage Intel 80386 processor, while their sizes remain roughly the same.

An important component of microelectronic circuits are capacitors, components which form the basis of many memory devices like dynamic random access memory (DRAM) devices. Capacitors in their simplest form consist of two metal plates with an insulator in between. The capacitance of a capacitor can be three strategies have been tried. Extremely thin films of the dielectric have been used but they seem to have reached their limits where any further reduction will result in loss of charge. The area of the plates has been increased by several methods such as introducing trenches or fins. But technology has reached its limits even in this case. The task of increasing the dielectric constant has also been challenging.

But now, R F Cave and others at the AT&T Bell Labs at Murray Hill, us, have reported a major success. They have discovered that with the incorporation of titanium oxide into tantalum oxide (the favoured material for capacitor fabrication), the capacitance of the capacitor could be enhanced. The dielectric constant of tantalum oxide alone is around 35, but with the introduction of titanium oxide, Cava and his team have been able to increase the dielectric constant to 126. This leap forward will no doubt have a major impact on the microelectronic industry.

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