Journey of Copper from Coins to Electronic chips

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Blog by Gangotri Dey, PhD Student, Tyndall National Institute

Imagine your mothers cooking!

Imagine one of her best cooked dishes.

Can you tell me where does she start from?

Well she starts from the basic ingredients, rice, potato, oil, the best salmon fish from the English market and the exquisite mustard sauce drizzled over it. She might have spent hours in Tesco, Lidle or the local farmers market to get these ingredients.

What if there is computer software to tell her the best of the quality, what if she does not have to spend hours in the rainy weather looking for the quality food.

In Tyndall National Institute we also cook something but instead of food, we cook semiconductor devices. We look for the best atoms and molecules with the help of specialized software which will help to build that perfect gadget that is needed for today’s technology hungry market. This branch of studies where one uses computer software to study the atoms and molecules is known as Computational Chemistry.

You might not know but the Cu metal which might sometime be in your jewellry is a very important part of the electronic chips. The maximum thickness that we want to deposit is ~2nm thick, which is roughly one millionth the size of our hair.

Now the question arises as to how can we deposit Cu to this thickness?

Now take this yet blank PhD thesis. How will it be filled up?

It will be written page by page, then chapter by chapter and at the end we will get a complete thesis.

So it will be built up layer by layer.

In the semiconductor industry there exists a technique called Atomic Layer Deposition where a thick layer of any material is thought to be built layer by layer and hence atom by atom.

We use the basis of this technique for building the layers of Cu.

One of the key reactions that we have studied is the use of a metal centre that can be used for the reduction of copper metal. One of the vital reactions that we have studied is how two metal centres from copper can be used for the reduction of each other. In this way, we avoid any impurity that can take place.

My research with this software is important because it helps to screen various reactions before its experimental trial at relatively cheap and hazard free cost. So we can save those few million euros wasted in buying hi-tech gadgets, chemicals and man power.

Hopefully in the future we will be able to fabricate a device with this technique and build that perfect gadget for today’s technology hungry market.

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