Image of Semiconductor Device
Molecular layer etching may help develop microelectronics and show the way beyond Moore’s Law. (Credit: Argonne National Laboratory)

Microelectronics like semiconductor devices are at the heart of the many medical technologies, and it is essential to find new ways to continue to pack more circuitry into each individual device.

Researchers have developed a new technique known as molecular layer etching that could potentially help make these increasingly small but complex devices. Together with molecular layer deposition (MLD), MLE can be used to design microscopic architectures. These approaches are analogs of atomic layer deposition (ALD) and atomic layer etching (ALE). However, unlike atomic layering techniques, which deal exclusively with inorganic films, MLD and MLE can be used to grow and remove organic films as well.

Using this technique can help manufacturers and researchers develop new ways of making nanostructures. The process may also be a safer option for them to use because it is free of halogens, a harsh components of chemicals common in other etching processes. It also has the advantage of being selective; the etching technique can selectively remove MLD layers without affecting nearby ALD layers.

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