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Samsung’s Latest Material Discovery Could Disrupt the Semiconductor Industry

August 20, 2020 by Luke James

Samsung believes that its latest scientific breakthrough may change the way that we perceive semiconductors.

In June, Samsung researchers from the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT), in collaboration with the University of Cambridge and the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), unveiled the discovery of a new material called amorphous boron nitride (a-BN).

Samsung claims that the team’s research, which was published in the journal Nature, could accelerate the advent of the next generation of semiconductors.


Overcoming Scalability Challenges

The result of Samsung’s latest foray into two-dimensional material, a-BN is composed of a single layer of atoms and is characterised by a liquid-like (amorphous) molecule structure. It’s the best 2D material for insulation ever to be synthesised according to the research team, and Samsung hopes that it will be able to utilise the technology in the production of graphene wafers with low levels of electrical interference.

“To enhance the compatibility of graphene with silicon-based semiconductor processes, wafer-scale graphene growth on semiconductor substrates should be implemented at a temperature lower than 400°C,” said Hyeon-Jin Shin, a graphene project leader and principal researcher at SAIT. “We are also continuously working to expand the applications of graphene beyond semiconductors.”


An example of a highly-integrated semiconductor from Samsung that shows the difference between conventional and a-BN dielectrics.

An example of a highly-integrated semiconductor from Samsung that shows the difference between conventional and a-BN dielectrics. Image Credit: Samsung.


Indeed, graphene has been the subject of several projects at Samsung ever since it was first isolated 16 years ago. And following the problems with the Galaxy Note 7 in 2016, Samsung is thought to have poured significantly more time, effort, and money into graphene R&D—with the goal of integrating it into its smartphone and other batteries to make them more stable. 

Making graphene-based batteries is not simple, however, and it has been some time since Samsung was last known to have made any significant progress. Among other things, scalability is a huge limiting factor and remains a key issue in regard to mass-production costs.


More Information on Amorphous Boron Nitride

The newly discovered material, amorphous boron nitride, consists of boron and nitrogen atoms with an amorphous molecule structure. Although a-BN is derived from white graphene, which includes boron and nitrogen atoms arranged in a hexagonal structure, the molecular structure of a-BN makes it very different from white graphene.

a-BN features a best-in-class ultra-low dielectric constant of 1.78 and strong electrical and mechanical properties. It can also be used as an interconnect isolation material to reduce electrical interference.

The researchers also demonstrated that a-BN can be grown on a wafer scale at a low temperature of just 400°C. As a result, a-BN is expected to be widely applicable to semiconductors like dynamic random access memory and NAND solutions.

“Recently,” said Seongjun Park, vice president and head of Inorganic Material Lab, SAIT, “interest in 2D materials and the new materials derived from them has been increasing. However, there are still many challenges in applying the materials to existing semiconductor processes. We will continue to develop new materials to lead the semiconductor paradigm shift.”

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