Silicon chips with built in Lego-like matching teeth and hole structures could aid in the development of 3D electronics, said a team of researchers from the University of Southampton.
The vast majority of modern electronics are etched onto flat silicon wafers and increasing their speed normally involves squeezing more components onto the same surface area.
But Michael Kraft, Mark Spearing and Liudi Jiang, as part of their experiment, built electronics in three dimensions, typically by layering individual silicon wafers on top of one another.
They developed wafers, fitted with matching sets of pegs and holes, resembling those found on Lego bricks. Each silicon chip, measuring two centimetres to a side, consisted of 10 tiny pyramids positioned along its edge on the underside of angled cantilevers.
The pyramids measured 500 microns wide at their base and 100 microns wide at their tip. The matching wafer had a pattern of 10 square holes along each of its edges. Both features were created using acid and ion etching techniques that are standard in commercial silicon processing.
Tests revealed this method of aligning the chips provided a better construction method, as microscopic features were more accurately lined up. Images taken with a scanning electron microscope revealed that the two chips aligned to within 200 nanometre accuracy.