The ability to write metal lines that are less than 5 nanometers wide has been demonstrated by a University of Illinois research team, and this could impact the future fabrication of nanoelectronics and quantum devices. "The procedure of using STM [scanning tunneling microscope] electrons to break apart molecules and yield a metallic deposit is not new, however previous attempts have been plagued by high levels of carbon impurities in the deposits and metallic behavior had not been demonstrated," the study says.
Illinois professors Joe Lyding, Gregory Girolami, and Angus Rockett used a novel molecular precursor for the metallic ceramic hafnium diboride, which was developed by Girolami for low temperature chemical vapor deposition (CVD) applications. The CVD precursor contains no carbon, but only hafnium, boron, and hydrogen. Electron beam induced deposition (EBID) by the STM cleanly drives out the hydrogen, leaving a metallic HfB2 deposit.
"To our knowledge this is the first demonstration of sub-5 nm metallic nanostructures in an STM-EBID experiment, and it opens new opportunities for making deterministic molecular scale metallic contacts," the researchers conclude.
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