Carl Osburn's findings lead to smaller, more efficient microchips

March 16, 2007
In January, IBM and Intel both announced a new technology that would allow them to make future generations of microchips smaller, more powerful, and more efficient.  Much of the early research that led to this breakthrough was funded by a local Triangle corporation and led by engineers at NC State.

As microchips began getting smaller and smaller, but also hotter and less efficient, the semiconductor industry was concerned about whether it could continue to develop the devices.  As a result, Semiconductor Research Corporation began investing in research on new materials that could keep electric current from leaking between transistors and thus solve the problems of heat and inefficiency.

SRC set up a research center at NC State University in 1998, headed by ECE Professor Carl Osburn, to coordinate related research done by dozens of scientists at universities around the country.  They picked an element called hafnium to develop as a better insulator and later help SRC's corporate sponsors, IBM and Intel, to translate the findings into commercial possibilities.

Osburn's group spent five years building and testing devices using hafnium until he became the director of the SRC research center.

"It's really great to see something you've worked on so hard for a long time become commercialized," says Osburn.