>Technique Turns Computer Chip Defects Into an Advantage

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Physicists at Ohio State University have discovered that tiny defects inside a computer chip can be used to tune the properties of key atoms in the chip.
The technique, which they describe in the journal Science, involves rearranging the holes left by missing atoms to tune the properties of dopants — the chemical impurities that give the semiconductors in computer chips their special properties.Though the technique is currently limited to the laboratory, it could prove valuable to industry in the future, as the continued miniaturization of cell phone and computer chips makes the performance of individual atoms in a semiconductor more important.”The effect we discovered is probably already going on inside the devices we use every day — it’s just not being controlled,” said Jay Gupta, assistant professor of physics at Ohio State and principal investigator on the project. “Once industry takes this effect into account, our discovery could not only enable future computers with faster speeds, but could also enable new paradigms for computing — based, for example, on quantum mechanics.”
The initial discovery happened in the summer of 2008 as then-graduate student Donghun Lee was carefully measuring how the properties of dopant atoms depended on the arrangement of other nearby atoms. Lee and Gupta were peering at the common chip material gallium arsenide using a scanning tunneling microscope (STM), a type of electron microscope that can image surfaces with atomic resolution and position single atoms using a strong electric field.
Researchers commonly nudge atoms with an STM’s electric field to rearrange them. In the case of these chip materials, the rearrangement process was like playing a sliding tile puzzle, Gupta explained; they rearranged the vacancies — empty holes, considered defects — in the material.
Thanks to ScienceDaily
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