An anodizing process, at an early stage of development at the time of reporting the information for this article, has shown promise as a means of fabricating alumina nanotemplates integrated with silicon wafers. Alumina nanotemplates are basically layers of alumina, typically several microns thick, in which are formed approximately regular hexagonal arrays of holes having typical diameters of the order of 10 to 100 nm. Interest in alumina nanotemplates has grown in recent years because they have been found to be useful as templates in the fabrication of nanoscale magnetic, electronic, optoelectronic, and other devices. The present anodizing process is attractive for the fabrication of alumina nanotemplates integrated with silicon wafers in two respects: (1) the process involves self-ordering of the holes; that is, the holes as formed by the process are spontaneously arranged in approximately regular hexagonal arrays; and (2) the rates of growth (that is, elongation) of the holes are high enough to make the process compatible with other processes used in the mass production of integrated circuits.

In preparation for fabrication of alumina nanotemplates in this process, one first uses electron-beam evaporation to deposit thin films of titanium, followed by thin films of aluminum, on silicon wafers. Then the alumina nanotemplates are formed by anodizing the aluminum layers, as described below.

This Alumina Nanotemplate was made by roomtemperatureanodizing in an aqueous solutionof 40 volume percent sulfuric acid at a currentdensity of 50 mA/cm2. The hole diameter is 17nm and the porosity is 16 percent.
In experiments in which the process was partially developed, the titanium films were 200 Å thick and the aluminum films were 5 μm thick. The aluminum films were oxidized to alumina, and the arrays of holes were formed by anodizing the aluminum in aqueous solutions of sulfuric and/or oxalic acid at room temperature (see figure). The diameters, spacings, and rates of growth of the holes were found to depend, variously, on the composition of the anodizing solution, the applied current, or the applied potential, as follows:

  • In galvanostatically controlled anodizing, regardless of the chemical composition of the solution, relatively high current densities (50 to 100 mA/cm2) resulted in arrays of holes that were more nearly regular than were those formed at lower current densities.
  • The rates of elongation of the holes were found to depend linearly on the applied current density: the observed factor of proportionality was 1.2 (μm/h)/(mA/cm2).
  • For a given fixed current density and room temperature, the hole diameters were found to depend mainly on the chemical compositions of the anodizing solutions. The holes produced in sulfuric acid solutions were smaller than those produced in oxalic acid solutions.
  • The arrays of holes produced in sulfuric acid were more ordered than were those produced in oxalic acid.
  • The breakdown voltage was found to decrease logarithmically with increasing concentration of sulfuric acid.
  • The breakdown voltage was also found to decrease with temperature and to be accompanied by a decrease in hole diameter.
  • The hole diameter was found to vary linearly with applied potential, with a slope of 2.1 nm/V. This slope differs from slopes (2.2 and 2.77 nm/V) reported for similar prior measurements on nanotemplates made from bulk aluminum. The differences among these slopes may be attributable to differences among impurities and defects in bulk and electron-beam- evaporated aluminum specimens.

This work was done by Nosang Myung, Jean- Pierre Fleurial, Minhee Yun, William West, and Daniel Choi of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

This invention is owned by NASA, and a patent application has been filed. Inquiries concerning nonexclusive or exclusive license for its commercial development should be addressed to the Patent Counsel, NASA Management Office–JPL. Refer to NPO-40070.