A solution to one of the major problems plaguing the microelectronics industry ― the difficulty in shrinking capacitors, the largest device components in microelectronic circuits ― is reported online this week in Nature Materials. These devices could lead to significantly reduced microelectronic memory chips with record storage densities.
Capacitors are used for computer memory chips. However, their size reduction has been limited by a 'dead layer' at the surface that reduces the overall performance. Nicola Spaldin and colleagues studied the origin of the dead layer and discovered that for certain material combinations the dead layer effect is reversed. For these 'negative' dead layers, predicted, for example, for platinum metal contacts in combination with barium titanate capacitors, the overall capacitance is increased, not reduced. As a result, microelectronic memory chips can be made much smaller, suggesting a significant extension of Moore's law that predicts the performance improvements of computer chips.