1 × 10^3 Words: Superlattice

by Michael Mullaney on September 16, 2011

What you see above is a collection of nanoscale gold on a silicon surface, made by physics Professor Sang-Kee Eah. To get a sense of the size, 1micron, or 1 μm, equals one-millionth of a meter.  The large zebra-striped pattern running diagonally from southwest to northeast is a superlattice, an area where the nanogold assembled into a unique and highly uniform pattern.

If you zoomed in even closer to this particular superlattice, you’d see very small features measuring less than 9 nanometers—or 9 billionths of a meter—in length. This is important. Chips in today’s computers have features measuring about 32 nanometers, and industry and academia are constantly pushing forward to create chips with smaller and smaller features. Chips with features measuring less than 10 nanometers would be a huge milestone. Eah says his new method for creating this type of superlattice, as seen above, could be a part of the technology puzzle that makes sub-10-nanometer chips a possibility.

Below is an interesting video that stitches together many images from a scanning electron microscope of Eah’s superlattice into one long shot: