Demands for improved computer processing power have led researchers to explore both new processes and other materials beyond silicon to produce electronic components. Semiconductor devices are created on wafers through a multi-step process to coat, remove, or pattern conductive materials. Traditional processes are wet etch, in which a sample with blocked aspects is immersed in an acid bath to remove substances, and reactive ion etching, in which ions bombard exposed surfaces on the wafer to change its chemical properties and remove materials in those exposed regions. Both have been used to develop the intricate electronic patterns on circuits, and use silicon as a foundation for this type of patterning.
A more efficient fabricating process was developed to produce semiconductors used in today’s electronic devices. In addition, materials other than silicon can be used successfully in the development process that could increase performance of electronic devices.
The fabrication process — I-MacEtch, or inverse metal-assisted chemical etching method — can help meet the growing demand for more powerful and reliable nanotechnologies needed for solar cells, smartphones, telecommunications grids, and new applications in photonics and quantum computing. The process can be applied to indium-gallium-phosphide materials, and combines the benefits of the two traditional methods — wet etching and reactive ion etching. The improved process means avoiding expensive, bulky, hazardous processing methods.
The novel processing method can be significant in the development of ordered arrays of high-aspect-ratio structures such as nanowires. For solar cells, the goal is to minimize the cost-to-power-produced ratio, and if it is possible to lower the cost of making the cell, and increasing the efficiency of it, this improves the device overall.