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Donnelly Continues Chip Studies

David Donnelly, assistant professor of physics at Sam Houston State University, has received a $125,603 research grant from the National Science Foundation to continue work on a new process for production of computer chips.

The new method utilizes powerful laser blasts in lieu of a conventional heating process, and is being developed in conjunction with scientists at the Naval Research Lab (NRL) in Washington, D. C.

Donnelly's proposal was one of the most highly ranked of 156 proposals submitted nationally, and could result in more efficient production of smaller computer chips. Donnelly is continuing research that resulted in a process developed with former SHSU faculty members Bill Covington and Charles Manka, and another scientist. The researchers applied for a patent for that process and licensed it for use in the computer chip production industry.

"One of the problems encountered in the early experiments was reproducibility," said Donnelly. "Of the seven samples treated with the laser, only two were annealed at a level comparable to that achieved by a thermal process."

The two which did work, however, showed great promise. Thermal annealing tends to "smear" the chip's transistors, Donnelly said, limiting the size and density of transistors implanted on the silicon crystal of computer chips.

Thermal annealing also limits the number of chips that can be produced from a single silicon wafer.

"This research will also serve an educational purpose," said Donnelly. "Graduate and undergraduate students will carry out much of the work on the project, providing these students with invaluable training for work in both science and engineering."

For more on Donnelly's computer chip research, see Computer Chip Breakthrough.


Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
July 15, 1998
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