Institute of Physics and Technology: three decades of research and development in field of micro- and nanoelectronics
Mr. Lukichev, what is the place of the Institute of Physics and Technology of the RAS in the system of institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences and what problems does it deal with?
If we talk about the history of the creation of our institute, by the beginning of the 1980s a situation had arisen when domestic research and developments in the field of microelectronics had moved mainly to the applied plane and were conducted, mainly, in sectoral research institutes of profile agencies, which ultimately led to a narrowing scientific horizon in these organizations and solving of the problems exclusively for the immediate future. In view of the importance of providing a theoretical basis for the development of computer technology and accompanying semiconductor technologies with a more distant planning horizon, in 1983 the Department of Informatics, Computer Science and Automation was established at the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (later, already in the 2000s, it received the name of the Department of Nanotechnology and Information Technology). In 1988, the Institute of Physics and Technology of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR was organized in its structure. The Institute was created to solve fundamental physical and technological problems of manufacturing integrated circuits with submicron (at that time) design rules based on mathematical modeling of devices and technological processes, the development of key technologies including high-resolution lithography, vacuum and plasma methods for deposition of thin films and their dimensional microstructuring, research of characteristics of integrated devices of microelectronics. One of the initiators of the creation of the new Department and the first director of the Institute was Academician Kamil A. Valiev, who in the 1960s and 1970s made a great contribution to the development of the domestic microelectronic industry, headed the Scientific and Research Institute for Molecular Electronics and the Mikron plant, for the first time in the USSR ensured the development and serial production of monolithic silicon integrated circuits, which became the elemental base of domestic computer technology and defense systems. Walking in step with the times, in 1995, K. Valiev organized and headed the Laboratory of Quantum Computer Physics within the Institute of Physics and Technology, introducing the problems of quantum informatics and the circuitry that provides quantum computing to the list of the main scientific areas of the Institute. From 2005 to 2015, the post of director of the Institute was occupied by his pupil – academician of the RAS Alexander A. Orlikovsky – the founder of a number of research areas in the field of physical fundamentals of silicon micro- and nanoelectronics.
Applied problems include the development of wide-aperture sources of highly ionized low-temperature plasma and ion sources for technological applications, plasma pilot equipment and technologies for film deposition, micro- and nanostructuring, immersion ion implantation, methods and means for monitoring plasma processes, as well as MEMS, NEMS and sensors based on silicon technology.
The above researches are carried out by the structural subdivisions of the Institute: the laboratory of quantum computer physics, the laboratory of the architecture of high-performance computing systems, the laboratory of mathematical modeling of the physical and technological processes of microelectronics, the laboratory of microstructuring and submicron devices, the laboratory of ion-beam technologies, the laboratory of surface physics of microelectronic structures, the laboratory of micro- and nanosystems technology. It is important to understand that at present the institute is dealing with key issues not only micro-, but also nanoelectronics, that is, electronics of nano-sized elements of integrated circuits. Our laboratories for a long time already operate on scales of tens and even units of nanometers.
As part of the reorganization of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 2006, the Yaroslavl Institute of Microelectronics and Informatics of the RAS was included in the Institute of Physics and Technology, becoming our branch. We are united not only by a common name, but also by the general theme and scientific areas of research. Yaroslavl colleagues successfully engaged in plasma technologies to create sensitive elements of MEMS, and brought the results obtained to the introduction to serial production. A significant part of the work in the Yaroslavl branch is devoted to research in the field of magnetic memory. On the territory of the Yaroslavl branch is the Center for Collective Use of the Yaroslavl University, which has modern scientific equipment. The center offers highly qualified services to research institutions, enterprises of the Yaroslavl region. Currently, the staff of the Institute and the branch employ about 200 people.
What are the most significant achievements of the Institute?
If we talk about the achievements of recent years, I would single out three areas where our institute got breakthrough results.
First, the team of the laboratory of quantum computer physics obtained results that provide the creation of prototypes of quantum computing and communication devices, as well as systems for designing such devices. Realistic modeling of the quantum computer circuitry was carried out, taking into account quantum noise, and simulation of noisy basic quantum algorithms was implemented, including with the use of RAS supercomputers and Lomonosov supercomputer. The laboratory of architecture of high-performance computing systems offers realistic designs of microstructures that perform qubit functions and allow the construction of a full-scale quantum computer on double quantum dots. By the way, the prospectivity of double quantum dots for quantum computation was first shown theoretically and published by a group of our employees under the leadership of L.E. Fedichkin in the Laboratory of Academician K.A. Valiev in 2000. Here, the Institute has a world priority. At present we are beginning to solve technological problems for the practical creation of such structures with scalable architecture.
Secondly, in the laboratory of microstructuring and submicron devices, research was carried out and technological approaches for the formation of structures of silicon field-effect transistors with element sizes of less than 10 nm were developed. As part of this work, for the first time in Russia, experimental so-called silicon Fin structures with a high carrier mobility and a critical size of 7.8 nm were obtained. The manufacturing process includes high-resolution electron lithography, precision anisotropic plasma etching, removing the affected silicon layer. Such structures are the basis for FinFET nanotransistors with a design rule of less than 14 nm, an array (up to 104 elements) of sub-10 nm Si nanowires for solid-state terahertz oscillators, a solid-state quantum register of a quantum computer, the construction of which is proposed in our Institute. At present, work is under way on the atomic layer deposition of dielectric materials and metal gates to obtain a complete structure of a sub-10 nm nanotransistor.
And, thirdly, the most important applied scientific and technical result, revealing the innovative potential of the Institute, was obtained by the laboratory of micro- and nanosystems technology in conjunction with the Yaroslavl branch, and consists in developing the design, technology and manufacturing of sensitive elements of MEMS microgroscopes and a set of MEMS accelerometers. This development was successfully introduced into serial products and presented to the Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation D.A. Medvedev.
The problems of creating a quantum computer are attracting increasing attention not only of the scientific community but also of the general public. How do you assess the state of affairs in this area?
According to forecasts, the creation of a full-scale quantum computer will become real by 2030. Systems that are already created, or announced for the next few years, are still, by and large, technology demonstrators and quantum simulators. I think that solid-state elements will become the basis for a full-scale quantum computer, since other systems (for example, on liquid molecules, on individual atoms in traps) do not allow the realization of a full-scale computer, which should contain up to 1000 interacting qubits – quantum bits. At the same time, one must understand that a quantum computer does not replace the classical computer, and is necessary for solving a rather specific class of very complex problems. In order to understand the scale of the computer system to which a quantum computer will be included, it should be emphasized that only a very powerful classical supercomputer will be needed to control its operation.
We have been engaged in quantum informatics since 1995, we cooperate in this field with the Kazan Federal University, the Kazan Zavoisky Physical Technical Institute, Rzhanov Institute of Semiconductor Physics of Siberian Branch of the RAS, we participate in the work of a quantum consortium created on the basis of the Lomonosov Moscow State University. Unfortunately, in Russia there is no way to fully implement the experimental part of the work on creating a solid-state element base for a quantum computer. A lot of the required scientific, experimental equipment is not produced in our country for a long time. Therefore, the work carried out in this area in the Institute is mostly theoretical. Nevertheless, we have original ideas, what should be the solid-state structure of the qubits of the future quantum computer, how to use the nanoelectronics technologies to create them.
The quantum methods of processing information, allowing to create very secure channels of information transmission are much closer to the wide practical implementation. We place emphasis on them in our work for the near future.
In any case, I believe that the creation of a full-fledged quantum computer system can be solved only as a national task.
What do you think about prospects and trends in the development of micro- and nanoelectronics technologies?
Since our institute was organized to study the problems of microelectronics and physics of devices, node sizes and critical dimensions of integrated devices have decreased from 2 μm to modern 7–10 nm. The trend of scaling into the nanoscale area allowed to create schemes of high-performance microprocessors containing up to 20 billion transistors on a chip, and gave developers of the architecture of computing systems unprecedented opportunities.
However, this same trend led to the achievement of the limits of silicon technology, when it is practically impossible to further reduce the size of transistors, because the physical limit is reached at which the main element of the integrated circuit – MIS-transistor stops working as a perfect key. Theoretically, this limit, including quantitatively, was predicted by academicians K.A. Valiev and A.A. Orlikovsky more than 15 years ago. But the logical operations in the processor chip are built on these keys.
The evolution of silicon nanoelectronics on the way to 10 nm chips has led to a change in the design of transistors - from planar to 3D geometry, and to the widespread introduction of new materials - dielectrics and metals, as well as new technologies. The last version of the integrated MIS-transistor, the so-called tunnel transistor, is expected to allow the "thermal wall" to be moved somewhat and to significantly increase the processor clock speeds or create circuits with ultra-low power consumption. We conduct such investigations in the field of tunnel transistors, not only theoretically, but also conduct experiments to create an ultra-thin "spacer" in the construction of such a transistor, which will be the key element of this device. I think we will be able to please here with visible results in the near future.
Simultaneously, the search for alternatives to silicon is constantly being conducted. First of all, this is a number of other semiconductors with higher mobility, grown on a silicon substrate. The creation of new transistor structures also includes more exotic options now-based on 2D and 1D materials (graphene, MoS2, carbon nanotubes) and other structures. Obstacles that limit the use of such new transistors seem very serious, but their production, even in the form of experimental devices, has given unprecedented impetus to the development of absolutely new technologies. In the case of continuing research, in some cases such an "exotic" may well find its niche in commercial products.
But let's go back to the silicon technology. To keep the growth rates of the density of transistors on the chip (which are still falling) fixed by the well-known Moore law, the trend has been the creation of three-dimensional integrated circuits with the increase in the number of transistors by connecting several chips vertically. The issues of advanced packaging of integrated circuits are also important because this approach allows you to combine chips made with different technologies and to combine logical, analog, interface circuits, memory, etc. into a single system, that is, to build an integral 3D system entirely, removing part of the problems associated with the use of printed circuit boards.
Concerning economic trends, I would like to note that the importance of Moore's law for the consumer market is determined by economic factors – the need for regular renewal of the range of products, the constant growth of consumer qualities, the cheapening of the integrated circuit in terms of one transistor. This approach to the development of microelectronics is justified only at a monopolistically high level of commercial IC production. But in the field of devices for special tasks, this law looks different, since such characteristics as, for example, radiation resistance and low energy consumption, reliability significantly exceeding that for mass integrated circuits are put at the forefront. It is no accident that actual problems, for example, in space technology, are the specific task of creating radiation-resistant memory and processors with low power consumption operating over a wide temperature range. Given this, it is permissible and logical to assume that the cost of production is, although important, but by no means the only factor determining the feasibility of development and production.
As a result, the difference in requirements has led to the fact that consumer and special electronics are increasingly moving away from each other, they are characterized by different circuitry solutions, and sometimes more expensive technologies are justified.
Do the institute's developments find application in the electronics industry and other applied fields?
Studies of the fundamental foundations of technology are, ultimately, practice oriented. Therefore, a number of our works find their customers, for example, Scientific and Research Institute for Molecular Electronics and Mikron, for which we developed key structuring technologies for creating promising 32 nm integrated circuits. Also, cryogenic silicon etching processes are being studied and modeled, when the substrate is cooled to a temperature of –110°C to –130°C, and with the action of a chemically active plasma it is possible to obtain special micro holes with a depth of up to 100 μm or more. Such structures are just needed for advanced packaging of already produced integrated circuits.
I want to point out the importance of mathematical modeling of physical and technological processes. The smaller the topology become, the more new effects appear, which must first be understood and mathematically described, and only then can we understand how to use them or avoid them in the experiment. This approach is called "process design". It not only saves a lot of time and money, but also underlies the development of new technologies. It is also very important to model the processes that determine the degradation of integrated circuits during their operation. In particular, one of the problems we are currently studying is electromigration, a phenomenon encountered with a decrease in the cross sections of conductive elements and an increase in the current density in the metallization of ultra-large integrated circuits.
Works in the field of nanomagnetism, which are conducted jointly with the Kurchatov Institute, also have an applied value. So, if we introduce nanomagnetic particles into the composition of drugs, then the method of Mцssbauer spectroscopy can be used to monitor how the latter are absorbed in the body. Such studies are already conducted on animals.
The laboratory of ion beam technologies develops sources of fast neutral particles, which are used, in particular, for the production of heavy-duty diamond-like coatings. This result has found application in the creation of rotor coatings for pumps that replace the human heart. Such devices allow people to wait their turn to heart transplant. The experimental sample of the pump with a significantly increased resource has made 10 billion revolutions without deterioration of characteristics.
Developments of the laboratory of micro- and nanosystems technology are used in the creation of sensors of various types. Sensitive element for micro-gyroscopes of navigation systems is ten times smaller than traditional devices. Together with the Ramensky instrument-making design bureau, this project was brought to industrial implementation.
Our know-hows in thin-film technologies are in demand in different areas. For example, at the request of Pulsar, we developed the deposition of dielectrics with high dielectric permeability to the structures of gallium nitride in order to obtain a powerful microwave switch. And the result of working together with the Rzhanov Institute of Semiconductor Physics became a protective high-passivation layer for a chip with a nanotransistor biosensors (Lab-on-Chip), working in biologically active liquids, which provided the possibility of reusable use of such a device.
On the basis of our developments in the field of plasma sources and plasma technologies, we designed and manufactured about 10 experimental systems, which are operated, in particular, in Zelenograd and Novosibirsk. I would like to especially note that we have reached a deep understanding of technological processes and are ready to help industrial enterprises and scientific organizations to learn new technologies.
Does the Institute participate in international cooperation?
Back in the mid-1990s, we established good links with the institutions of the German Fraunhofer Society, in particular with the Institute for Integrated Circuits (IIS) in Erlangen and, later, with the Institute for Electronic Nano Systems (ENAS) in Chemnitz. Long-standing relations also connect us with well-known IMEC R&D and innovation hub in Leuven (Belgium) and CEA-Leti in Grenoble (France). We also cooperate with several Japanese scientific organizations, including, with the Tokyo University, and also the Tohoku University. The Institute carried out joint projects of the Ministries of Science of Russia and Germany (DFG), pilot projects within the framework of the European Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). Unfortunately, Russia was excluded from the next such program – Horizon 2020, therefore the developments planned in its framework with the participation of the Institute were suspended.
Every two years, since 1994, we have hosted the English-language International Scientific Conference on Micro- and Nanoelectronics (ICMNE) in Russia, and as a rule, up to 30 colleagues from France, Germany, Eastern Europe, Japan and Korea always come to us. Scientists from the United States, Great Britain, India, and other countries were also on a visit. The conference (www.icmne.ftian.ru) provides a unique platform for communication of Russian and foreign scientists on the widest range of issues of modern nanoelectronics and quantum informatics.
In addition to scientific organizations from the far abroad, we also try to develop cooperation with the institutes of academies of sciences of the CIS countries, in particular, from Belarus, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan. For already 10 years, the International Association of the Academies of Sciences (IAAS) has been working, which includes members of the above academies. Each year, IAAS holds scientific sessions in various participating countries, during which the coordination of research of mutual interest is carried out. The Institute of Physics and Technology of the RAS is the Russian co-chairman in the IAAS Council.
How does the Institute participate in the education of personnel for science and industry?
We have a basic graduating department of nanoelectronics and quantum computers in the MIPT, organized by academician K.A. Valiev, in MEPhI – the scientific and educational center for quantum and nanotechnology, in addition, we teach in MIREA. Almost all the leading staff of the Institute are lecturing at the basic department of the MIPT and at the scientific and educational center, or are directing bachelor's and master's works of students that are performed on our scientific equipment. The Institute has an academic postgraduate study, where we invite from two to five people annually. Graduate students of the MIPT, whose research supervisors are our employees, are trained and carry out their dissertations in the Institute. At the Institute of Physics and Technology there is a dissertation council, and the majority of its members are doctors of sciences who work at the Institute. Our Yaroslavl branch closely cooperates with Demidov Yaroslavl State University in training students in specialties related to microelectronics.
What problems do you face in your work?
Modern science is moved not only by pencils of theorists and computing power of personal computers. To carry out experiments, you need sophisticated research, technological and analytical equipment. The main problem is the difficulty of buying new equipment and its support. Firstly, the constraints imposed by the United States and the EU hamper, given the almost total absence of scientific instrument making in Russia. Secondly, in the context of reducing the budget funding of the RAS institutes, every year it is increasingly difficult to find the necessary funds. At the same time, the situation is even worse with the maintenance and repair of already installed equipment, as well as with the support of its infrastructure, since neither FASO nor customers of extrabudgetary research projects allocate funds for this purpose. Grants of scientific funds do not foresee any serious money for scientific equipment. According to the standards of the SEMI, to maintain the operation of equipment (often very expensive), it is necessary to allocate annually 7–10% of its cost. If this is not done, the scientific and technological equipment will become unusable after 5 years.
The current situation is that the funds allocated for these purposes by the FASO are transferred exclusively to the Centers for Collective Use at the institutes of RAS and for the maintenance of unique scientific systems. This is only a small part of the scientific equipment, mainly analytical, which is used by institutes in carrying out their work. I think that the share of equipment in the Centers for Collective Use does not exceed 20% of the total number of facilities involved in the research. This question, which is most important for any experimental science, will still have to be solved. But in the case of belated solutions, scientific equipment will have to be purchased anew. The miser, as we know, pays twice.
What are the plans for the development of the Institute?
Large plans are associated with the participation of the Institute in a microelectronic consortium, which was organized in 2015 by the Scientific and Research Institute for Molecular Electronics, headed by the academician of the RAS G.Krasnikov, for solving the problems of domestic industrial microelectronics: creation of domestic advanced technologies, development and organization of production of up-to-date domestic technological equipment. The program of the consortium was developed and approved, not large-scale but science-intensive projects have already been launched. And the competencies of our Institute are in demand already right now, at least in part.
However, we do not forget that according to the traditions of the Academy of Sciences, always at the forefront is the achievement of fundamental results, with the use of which it became possible to solve the applied problems of industry. It is necessary to look forward to the future, this is the main function of science, even if there is no complete understanding of how the results can be immediately used in the life around us. With the accumulation of a critical mass of knowledge, practical solutions also come. Therefore, we will continue to research on quantum informatics and nanoelectronics.
We also plan to expand cooperation with the academies of the countries of the Eurasian Economic Community, the CIS. Despite rather difficult times, this year, as always, in the first week of October we will hold our regular International Conference ICMNE-2018 and invite our European colleagues to it. Within the framework of the Russia-Japan Year, we plan to hold a round table with Japanese scientists. ■