Speeding innovation for industry
DNA molecules are found in all cells. And they could soon find their way into microelectronics. Researchers from Leti, a CEA Tech institute, are partnering with colleagues at INAC, an institute of CEA Sciences (the CEA's basic research division), to explore how!
DNA molecules are nano-sized and can do things like assemble themselves—standout properties that could make them a perfect match for microelectronics. The flagship A3DN research project was set up to assess DNA's potential in this domain.
The Leti researchers assigned to the project used the biopolymer to make conductive nanowires smaller than those obtained using the conventional engraving techniques. Considering that connectors are a major hurdle to developing even tinier objects, the minuscule nanowires are great news. The first step was to deposit and align DNA fragments on a silicon substrate. Metallization came next, a step that entailed positioning copper or gold atoms on certain atoms of the DNA. The process resulted in nano-sized conducting wires and suspended wires that could be used in NEMS.
At the same time, another team of researchers investigated how DNA could be harnessed to enhance advanced lithography. Here, it is the DNA's unique pairing capability that is of interest. Once folded over, the molecule reproduces exactly the predetermined pattern. The resulting origami-like structures are deposited onto a substrate, and the patterns are then transferred using conventional engraving. This development could pave the way toward higher pattern resolutions, smaller dimensions, and, above all, cost-competitive custom design. The potential applications are diverse, ranging from micro and nanosystems and biochemistry through to nanocharacterization and nanoelectronics—all of which could bring benefits to the factories of the future.
CEA is a French government-funded technological research organisation in four main areas: low-carbon energies, defense and security, information technologies and health technologies. A prominent player in the European Research Area, it is involved in setting up collaborative projects with many partners around the world.