Researchers find a way to reduce overheating of semiconductor devices

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Schematic diagram of the principle of measuring the thermal conductivity of titanium (TI) thin films and the thermal conductivity of the surface plasmon polariton measured on the Ti film. Credit: The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)

The demand to reduce the size of semiconductors combined with the problem of heat generated in the hot spots of devices not being effectively dissipated has negatively impacted the reliability and life of modern devices. Current thermal management technologies have not been up to the task. Therefore, the discovery of a new way of dispersing heat using the surface waves generated on the thin metal films above the substrate is a major breakthrough.

KAIST announced that the research group of Professor Bong Jae Lee from the Department of Mechanical Engineering has succeeded in measuring for the first time in the world a recently observed heat transfer induced by the “surface plasmon polariton” in a thin metal film deposited on a substrate.

Surface plasmon polariton (SPP) refers to a surface wave formed on the surface of a metal as a result of a strong interaction between the electromagnetic field at the interface between the dielectric and the metal and the free electrons on the surface of the metal and similar particles which they vibrate collectively.

The research team used SPPs, which are surface waves generated at the metal-dielectric interface, to improve thermal diffusion in nanoscale thin metal films. Since this new mode of heat transfer occurs when a thin film of metal is deposited on a substrate, it is highly usable in the device manufacturing process and has the advantage that it can be fabricated over a large area. The research team demonstrated that thermal conductivity increased by about 25% due to surface waves generated on a 100 nm thick titanium (Ti) film with a radius of about 3 cm.

Professor KAIST Bong Jae Lee, who led the research, said: ‘The significance of this research is that a new mode of heat transfer using surface waves on a thin metal film deposited on a substrate with low processing difficulty is was identified for the first time in the world.It can be applied as a nanoscale heat spreader to efficiently dissipate heat near hot spots for easily overheated semiconductor devices.

The result has major implications for the future development of high-performance semiconductor devices as it can be applied to rapidly dissipate heat on a nanoscale thin film. In particular, this new mode of heat transfer identified by the research team is expected to solve the fundamental problem of thermal management in semiconductor devices as it allows even more effective heat transfer at nanometer thickness while the thermal conductivity of the thin film of usually decreases due to the dispersion effect of boundaries.

This study was published online April 26 in Physical Review Letters and was selected as an Editors’ Choice.

More information:
Dong-min Kim et al, Increasing thermal conductivity by surface plasmic polaritons propagating along a thin Ti film, Physical Review Letters (2023). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.130.176302

About the magazine:
Physical Review Letters

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