Thermal Profiling of Nanoscale Circuitry
APPLICATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY:
- Thermal management of small devices and systems, whether semiconductor electronics, nanofluidics, or photovoltaics - Design, prototyping and characterization of new circuit models - High-resolution measurement at extreme temperatures
- Does not interfere with device operation - Can be used either on individual devices or on batches of devices - Can be tailored to applicable temperature range - Imaging can be performed by scanning probe, electron, atomic force, or a variety of other microscopes
Increasing the speed and power of modern electronics depends upon efficient thermal management, which often involves both the reduction of heat and an understanding of heat generation and flow. Semiconducting devices usually operate above room temperature, and as they become ever smaller and their density increases, local heat generation degrades their speed, reliability, and length of operation.
Probing the thermal properties of nanoscale systems at very high temperatures is technically challenging because of the size constraint along with uncertainty of calibration and thermometry materials issues. Alex Zettl and Gavi Begtrup of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed a thermometry method of applying single-shot or reversible calibrated nanoparticle thermometers to thermally profile devices with nanoscale resolution, in real time.
Their thermo-electronic platform, which can employ multiwall nanotubes as ultra-high-temperature heating elements if needed, can provide important information on the electrical and thermal conductivity of nanoscale objects, either alone or integrated into devices or systems. It also measures their thermal stability, including their melting point and sublimation point.
The test platform can be variously configured. In one implementation, it consists of an electron transparent membrane, a sample with electrical contacts, and nanoparticle thermometers. Real-time atomic-resolution imaging of the nano-objects shows how they evolve at temperatures of up to 4,000K, how the atoms of the material shift, and how the material atomically fails. This helps determine the thermal/electrical transport properties of the object at each stage.
At present, in designing new circuits, the semiconducting industry relies heavily on finite element modeling and circuitry simulators that cannot provide temperature profiles of sufficient resolution or reliability at elevated temperatures, where devices are prone to failure. This new approach to thermal profiling can significantly aid design, prototyping, and characterization of devices and systems.
Alex Zettl and Gavi Begtrup
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