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Cooking up copper devices with Teflon.

Materials scientists have developed a simple procedure for making electronic devices such as circuit boards out of copper and (poly) tetrafluoroethylene -- better known by its trade name, Teflon. The faster and more compact computers become, the more engineers want to use Teflon-based components because Teflon isolates closely spaced circuits better than most other materials, says Robert R. Rye of Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M. Until now, however, Teflon's inert nature meant the material required eight processing steps before it could be used in these components.

Rye and colleagues from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque form a patterned copper coating on Teflon in three steps. First, they use X-rays aimed through a mask or a beam of electrons to trace a pattern on the Teflon. To the naked eye, the irradiated Teflon appears unaffected, but spectroscopic studies indicate that its surface chemistry does change, Rye says. The ends of the molecules open and then link with each other. "It makes the surface of the Teflon stiff, because you've tied up everything," he notes.

The researchers then etch the unaltered areas with a sodium solution to make it receptive to copper atoms, says Rye. Finally, they lay down copper in those areas, using a newly developed starting compoung and a process called chemical vapor deposition.

The scientists say they can vary the width of the pattern lines by changing the width of the X-ray or electron beam used, and they expect to make pattern lines thinner than 30 angstroms.
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Title Annotation:Materials Research Society report
Author:Pennisi, Elizabeth
Publication:Science News
Date:Dec 21, 1991
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