Jul 18, 2010

Engineers Create Tiny Wires With Old Technique

As microprocessors have shrunk, the wiring between them hasn't always kept up. But engineers at the University of Illinois are changing that with a decades-old metalworking technique.

It's called electrodeposition. It's basically the same process used in electroplating, but instead of depositing metal on a surface, as when trying to make a gold-plated piece of jewelry, the metal is deposited in a wire. "People weren't thinking about how to fabricate a wire in three dimensional space," said Min-Feng Yu, a professor of mechanical science and engineering.

Yu noted that the amount of processor power needed on chips is growing. That means the wires have to be thinner and smaller, and sometimes have to be constructed in three-dimensional space.

Yu and a graduate student, Jie Hu, realized that water is easy to shape, and at small scales the surface tension is quite strong. The phenomenon is easy to see when tiny droplets of water stretch between small objects.

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