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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Breakthrough In Modeling Thin-Film Growth

May 1, 2002

Breakthrough In Modeling Thin-Film Growth

Troy, N.Y. — Rensselaer researchers have announced a breakthrough in simulating the growth and aging of thin-films. The advance will lead to lower cost and more rapid development of microelectronics, protective coatings, and micromachines.

Researchers in the Focus Center-New York at Rensselaer (FC-NY, RPI)have used computer modeling to predict how nanoscale “islands” of copper or aluminum grow and spread out to form a thin film. This virtual fabrication and testing could significantly decrease the cost of product development and fabrication, said Tim Cale, director of the center.

“Computer modeling of polycrystalline thin films will allow us to minimize and totally avoid costly prototypes for some applications,” Cale said.

Other methods to model thin-film growth have limitations, but according to Cale, this new method opens the door to many opportunities that were previously unavailable.

This is a major advance, but more work needs to be done.

“Now we need to work toward predicting the properties of the resulting films,” said Cale. “The properties determine the film’s, and ultimately the product’s, performance. We need good physics and materials science models to plug into our basic approach. That will give us the most effective modeling possible.”

The new approach helps to bridge the gap between modelers and engineers. An engineer can optimize a process to produce the best material for a specific application, said Max Bloomfield, a graduate student working on the project.

Cale said that he and his colleagues in the Focus Center, along with members of the Scientific Computation Research Center at Rensselaer, Argonne National Laboratory, and organizations around the world, will work together to realize the broad potential of this breakthrough. Within the next few years, they hope to transfer the technology to industry.

Contact: Bruce Adams
Phone: (518) 276-6531
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