A Better Way of Making Blue Laser Diodes?

Sharp's new technique could bypass the intellectual property problems of the standard manufacturing procedure

4 min read

Jon Heffernan received the news in his hotel room with a 2 a.m. phone call. "I was on a business trip to Japan when we made the breakthrough," he says. Back at his laboratory in the UK, his team had succeeded in building an indium-gallium-nitride (InGaN) blue-violet laser diode in a new way. Heffernan had used a technique known as molecular beam epitaxy (MBE), clearing the path to making such diodes by a straightforward process and without having to worry about patents associated with the process used now.

The significance of that success was quick to register at Sharp Corp., the Japanese consumer electronics and manufacturing company based in Osaka, which employs Heffernan and his team at Sharp's European laboratories in Oxford, England. Blue-violet-laser diodes are about to burst onto the consumer electronics market in a technology called Blu-ray, which exploits the short wavelength of blue light to record up to 27 gigabits or 13 hours of standard video on a single DVD. Having a new way to build them could give Sharp access to a market that is expected to be worth US $5 billion within three years.

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3D-Stacked CMOS Takes Moore’s Law to New Heights

When transistors can’t get any smaller, the only direction is up

10 min read
An image of stacked squares with yellow flat bars through them.
Emily Cooper

Perhaps the most far-reaching technological achievement over the last 50 years has been the steady march toward ever smaller transistors, fitting them more tightly together, and reducing their power consumption. And yet, ever since the two of us started our careers at Intel more than 20 years ago, we’ve been hearing the alarms that the descent into the infinitesimal was about to end. Yet year after year, brilliant new innovations continue to propel the semiconductor industry further.

Along this journey, we engineers had to change the transistor’s architecture as we continued to scale down area and power consumption while boosting performance. The “planar” transistor designs that took us through the last half of the 20th century gave way to 3D fin-shaped devices by the first half of the 2010s. Now, these too have an end date in sight, with a new gate-all-around (GAA) structure rolling into production soon. But we have to look even further ahead because our ability to scale down even this new transistor architecture, which we call RibbonFET, has its limits.

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