Beckman researchers contribute to new NSF Nanoscale Electronics Center

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By Steve McGaughey, Beckman Institute
January 20, 2011

  • The University of Illinois is a partner in a new center for advancing nanoscale electronics manufacturing techniques.
  • Funded by the National Science Foundation, the center will focus on using molecules to replace bulk materials as components in integrated circuits.
  • ECE Professor Joseph Lyding's group in the center will be using scanning tunneling microscopes to fabricate nanostructures.

The University of Illinois is a partner in a new center funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) for advancing nanoscale electronics manufacturing techniques.

The Center for Nanostructured Electronic Materials will be led by Lisa McElwee-White of the University of Florida as principal investigator (PI), with Beckman Institute researchers Gregory Girolami as the local PI and ECE Professor Joe Lyding as a co-PI. Girolami, a professor in the Department of Chemistry, and Lyding are members of Beckman’s Nanoelectronics and Nanomaterials group.

Members of the new Center for Nanostructured Electronic Materials (from left): ECE Professor Joseph Lyding; Gregory Girolami, professor of Chemistry; Wei Ye, graduate student, Materials Science and Engineering; Lisa McElwee-White (principal investigator), University of Florida; David Wei, University of Florida; Noel Chang, graduate student, Chemistry; Marcus Lay, University of Georgia; Justin Mallek, graduate student, Chemistry.
Members of the new Center for Nanostructured Electronic Materials (from left): ECE Professor Joseph Lyding; Gregory Girolami, professor of Chemistry; Wei Ye, graduate student, Materials Science and Engineering; Lisa McElwee-White (principal investigator), University of Florida; David Wei, University of Florida; Noel Chang, graduate student, Chemistry; Marcus Lay, University of Georgia; Justin Mallek, graduate student, Chemistry.

The effort is also joined by the University of Georgia and private industry developers. The $1.5M grant to create the center was awarded through the NSF Centers for Chemical Innovation Program. The ultimate aim of the center is to develop new integrated circuit nanoscale fabrication methods that aren’t possible with current manufacturing techniques.

The center’s initial goal, according to the grant proposal’s abstract, is to focus on “how to use molecules to replace bulk materials as components in integrated circuits (ICs).” In responding to these challenges, the center researchers add that the feature sizes in these electronic devices “are rapidly approaching the limits of traditional lithographic methods.

“In addition, device improvements have not scaled with the latest generations of line-width improvements, and new ways to carry out computation and data storage are being explored. Molecular electronics, which substitute nanoparticles and molecule based structures in place of bulk materials currently used in ICs, offer the potential to address these challenges.”   

A first line of research at the center will investigate the use of chemical precursors and synthetic methods for two-dimensional directed growth of nanoparticles.

Girolami and Lyding will each make unique contributions to the center’s efforts. They collaborated on a recent paper for the journal ACS Nano that reported on a process for direct writing of metallic nanostructures at scales of less than 5 nm, an important advancement toward development of future nanoscale fabrication methods.

“Greg is a world leader at synthesizing chemical precursors that can be used for growing novel materials that will be needed for advanced chip technologies and other applications,” Lyding said. “My group is testing Greg’s precursors by using them in conjunction with our scanning tunneling microscopes to fabricate nanostructures.”

A joint team of students from the research groups of Girolami and Lyding are working together at the Beckman Institute on the project.

Editor's note: media inquiries should be directed to Brad Petersen, Director of Communications, at bradp@illinois.edu or (217) 244-6376.

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