Over the last decades, the field of microelectronics has fuelled, and benefited from, remarkable advances in materials research, technology development and manufacturing techniques. These advances have led to smaller, more efficient electronic components and systems, enhancing a wide range of existing applications and enabling new ones. With the recent unfolding of novel disruptive technologies, like Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence, we face a rising demand for the transfer, storage and processing of ever increasing amounts of information. To meet these needs, considerable efforts are invested in computing and memory technology, monolithic and heterogeneous integration, and IC scaling. These efforts involve R&D strategies that are becoming strongly interdisciplinary as both the scientific and technological challenges are of increasing complexity; this in turns open new and often unprecedented opportunities.
Since its foundation in 1995, our group has been committed to conducting research in the multifaceted field of micro-nanoelectronics, with a particular focus on low-dimensional materials and devices for information storage and processing. Throughout the years, our efforts have been directed toward developing new device concepts and technologies, some of them relevant to short-term commercially viable applications. Our collaborations and expertise-sharing with other academic groups and industry players have motivated substantial R&D activities, especially in memory technology, spanning from materials understanding and design to device fabrication and characterization. Relevant materials include semiconductor and metal nanocrystals, high-k dielectrics, graphene and solid electrolytes. The development of test devices (charge-trapping memories, ReRAMs, Junctionless FETs) and processes for nanostructures (Si nanowires, nanoelectrodes, nanopatterned dielectric films) is conducted at the cleanroom facility of the INN Nanotechnology & MEMS Laboratory, and the satellite fabrication & characterization labs. The maintenance and operation of the electrical characterization and micromachining labs are also part of our duties.
Our activities have included the development of the low-energy ion-beam-synthesis (LE-IBS) technique for creating 2D arrays of Si nanocrystals in dielectrics. Demonstrated in 1996, in collaboration with Salford University, this technique was further exploited for producing nanocrystal memories (NCMs) within the FASEM EU project. LE-IBS development, targeting the realization of non-volatile NCMs in industrial environment, was then implemented within the NEON EU project, in cooperation with Axcelis, the US ion implanter manufacturer. Over the years, other materials and technologies aiming at memory applications were demonstrated in collaboration with academic groups and companies (IBS, Cambridge Nanotech), with most activities being carried out within EU-, ESA- and national projects. Major accomplishments included the development of nanoparticle-rich organic dielectrics, GaN/Ge quantum dots and PIII-assisted Si-nanocrystal delta layers in SiO2 films, organic proton memories, charge-trapping high-k dielectrics, and the incorporation of single layer graphene in MIM ReRAM structures.
Over the last few years, we have pursued further activities aligning with our mission statement. Substantial efforts are directed toward developing memory devices for applications ranging from high-density data storage to neuromorphic computing. We also continue to work on alternative materials and device structures for electronics and sensing, with new efforts focusing on the emerging field of quantum nanoelectronics.