Dallas researcher receives award for new semiconductor chip processing technology

October 10, 2001

Chemist Patricia B. Smith, Ph.D., of Texas Instruments, Inc., in Dallas, Texas, will be honored October 18 by the world's largest scientific society for developing a new processing technology used to manufacture copper-interconnected silicon semiconductor chips. She will receive one of two 2001 Industrial Innovation Awards at the American Chemical Society's Southwest regional meeting in San Antonio, Texas.

Smith's technological contributions to wafer processing are "an excellent example of the impact of innovation through chemistry on the semiconductor industry," said Jiong-Ping Lu, Ph.D., a member of the group technical staff at Texas Instruments, Inc.

Semiconductors are pervasive in modern life; they're found in everything from our cars, telephones, and microwave ovens to our televisions, stereos, and air conditioners. In an endless drive to produce even faster, smaller appliances and electronic products, the semiconductor industry continuously experiments with new materials. For example, the industry is increasingly replacing aluminum-copper alloys -- used in semiconductors to carry electronic signals -- with pure copper, which is a better conductor.

Smith has developed a hydrogen-based plasma process that effectively removes residues formed during the manufacture of semiconductor chips with pure copper interconnected layers. Older process technology uses an oxygen-based plasma to remove the residues from aluminum interconnected layers, but copper easily reacts with oxygen, resulting in a failure of the device to conduct electrical current.

The hydrogen-based plasma process is currently being used to manufacture state-of-the-art, 0.18-micron technology semiconductor devices; it also will be used for the next generations of 0.13-and 0.10-micron device technologies.

The American Chemical Society's Industrial Innovation Awards recognize individuals and teams whose discoveries and inventions contribute to the commercial success of their companies and enhance our quality of life.
Patricia B. Smith, Ph.D., is a senior member of the technical staff at Texas Instruments, Inc. She received her Sc.B. in chemistry from Brown University in 1981 and her M.A. and Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Princeton University in 1983 and 1986. She resides in Colleyville, Texas.

American Chemical Society

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