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SUNY Polytechnic Institute Announces Funding from Onto Innovation Inc. for Advanced Metrology Methods to Improve High Volume Manufacturing of Memory Chips

SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly) announced today that Empire Innovation Professor of Nanoscale Science Dr. Alain Diebold has received funding from Onto Innovation Inc (“Onto Innovation” or “Onto”) to increase the capability of computer chip memory by characterizing the materials and multilayer structures which are used to fabricate high-aspect ratio 3D memory chips, such as DRAM. DRAM is used to temporarily store data to efficiently access and update code while a person interacts with their computer. This research initiative will deploy metrology methods to precisely measure the memory chip structures in order to enable high-volume manufacturing.

Dr. Diebold. Image Credit: SUNY Polytechnic Institute

“I am proud to congratulate Professor Diebold on this new research funding, which can ultimately spur greater understanding about the ways in which measurements of shape and dimensions of DRAM structures can be optimized to drive improved memory chips and their high-volume manufacture,” said SUNY Poly Acting President Dr. Tod A. Laursen. “This research effort dovetails nicely with the recent news that memory chip maker Micron is transforming Central New York into a global, leading-edge manufacturing hub, and SUNY Poly will continue to provide student research experience in this critical field.”

“This research is a testament to Dr. Diebold’s expertise, leveraging the advanced capabilities of SUNY Poly’s metrology laboratories in addition to its industry partnerships with Onto Innovation, all of which simultaneously provide a powerful platform for graduate student learning,” said Dr. Nathaniel Cady, SUNY Poly Interim Vice President of Research; Empire Innovation Professor of Nanobioscience.

More specifically, this research will use the unique capabilities of  Mueller Matrix Spectroscopic Ellipsometry and Rigorous Couple Wave Analysis coupled with Ai Diffract™ software from Onto to advance optical scatterometry for measurement of the shape and dimensions of 3D DRAM systems fabricated from silicon/silicon germanium (Si/SiGe) superlattice structures.

“I applaud Dr. Diebold for receiving this grant from Onto, which is a great example of the advanced research undertaken by our boundary-pushing SUNY Poly faculty, as well as the highly relevant workforce preparation that students attending SUNY Poly are able to gain by working closely with faculty,” said SUNY Poly Interim Dean of the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) Dr. André Melendez.

In addition, the three-year project will support graduate student learning whereby materials and structures used to fabricate 3D DRAM will be characterized by using X-ray and optical methods. This research will emphasize the measurement of test structures to determine feature shape and dimensions, among other properties.

“I am grateful to Onto Innovation for this support and for our partnership to facilitate mass production of next-gen memory chips,” said Professor Diebold. “I also look forward to enabling this student research opportunity which showcases the ways in which SUNY Poly prepares students for the advanced careers that improve the technologies on which we rely.”

Dr. Diebold is co-author of Optical and Electrical Properties of Nanoscale Materials, with Tino Hoffman (UNC), published in January 2022 by Springer Nature. The book provides an overview of the optical and electrical properties of 2D materials including graphene, transition metal dichalcogenides, and topological materials. When possible, the optical properties are related back to the electronic band structure.

In addition to his previous work with SEMATECH, Dr. Diebold had also held a senior-level research position with Allied Signal, now Honeywell. He has more than 90 technical publications, 50 invited presentations, and numerous book chapters.


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