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Speed demon gets hooked on silicon

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10:15am, September 13, 2001

Industrial scientists have devised a way to coat wafers of silicon, the stuff of the microelectronics revolution, with a high-performance semiconductor whose wider use could be a boon to many areas of electronics. Mating silicon to gallium arsenide, which currently shows up in special applications, has been a technological goal for more than 30 years.

If the fabrication advance announced this month by Motorola in Schaumburg, Ill., works on a commercial scale, fast low-power chips may become less expensive and more common, semiconductor specialists say. The same may prove true of chips hosting solid-state lasers and other optical components.

Those changes could benefit consumers by shrinking the size and cost of cell phones, according to the technique's developers. The new process may also make more affordable such technologies as collision-avoidance systems for vehicles and fiber-optic telecommunications to homes.

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