Microelectronics

A measurement technique with global reach

Measuring electron mobility is essential for evaluating new materials and processes in the semiconductor industry but measurement has historically been expensive, unreliable and inefficient. Researchers in LJMU’s Microelectronics Research Group have developed a new technique which overcomes these issues for the benefit of test engineers within the industry.

Ever since computers were invented, their speed has increased by developing smaller and smaller transistors. Transistor speed is characterised by electron mobility and measuring this has become more and more challenging as transistors have become smaller.

Researchers in LJMU’s Microelectronics Research Group worked with the Logic Devices Consortium at IMEC (Inter-University Microelectronics Research Centre, Belgium) to develop a new technique which solves a number of the problems which were encountered using the old methods of measurement. The role of the IMEC Consortium (which includes Intel, Global Foundries, Sony, Panasonic and Xilinx) included identifying the shortcomings of existing techniques, supplying test samples and verifying the proposed technique as users.

Extensive research by microelectronics researchers produced a technique which significantly reduced the costs of testing (saving in excess of £200,000), improved the reliability of results, eliminated errors leading to greater accuracy and halved the number of tests required, making it super-efficient.

The main beneficiaries of this new technique are test engineers (such as those in the Consortium at IMEC) and equipment suppliers. One such equipment supplier, Keithley Instruments, has played a leading role in disseminating the new approach.

The new mobility measurement technique simplifies the test procedure without using the expensive RF setup and has better accuracy and efficiency.

Inter-University Microelectronics Research Centre, Belgium

As a global prime test equipment supplier, Keithley has a worldwide customer base. An agreement was signed with Keithley to implement the new techniques on its instruments. Once it was clear that the technique could effectively be used with industry-standard equipment, Keithley began disseminating the research findings to its customers around the world via email and its quarterly newsletter ‘Test Patterns’.

Keithley also used the technique in its sales promotion material, citing it as one of the strengths of one of its award-winning instruments.

These activities provide mechanisms for a global reach and impact in a dynamic and expanding industry.

Find out more about the research within the Microelectronics Research Group.

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