This is the third in the series covering patents granted during 2011 in the printed electronics field.
US7977240: Metal Inks For Improved Contact Resistance
Joerg Rockenberger, Yu Chen, Fabio Zürcher, Scott Haubrich
Filing date: 13 Feb 2009; Issue date: 12 Jul 2011
Metal ink compositions, methods of forming such compositions, and methods of forming conductive layers are disclosed. The ink composition includes a bulk metal, a transition metal source, and an organic solvent. The transition metal source may be a transition metal capable of forming a silicide, in an amount providing from 0.01 to 50 wt. % of the transition metal relative to the bulk metal. Conductive structures may be made using such ink compositions by forming a silicon-containing layer on a substrate, printing a metal ink composition on the silicon-containing layer, and curing the composition. The metal inks of the present invention have high conductivity and form low resistivity contacts with silicon, and reduce the number of inks and printing steps needed to fabricate integrated circuits.
Kovio Inc. is one of the leading companies involved in printed electronics devices and have made significant progress in printing complex electronic devices such as RFID’s in which not only the antenna but also the associated electronics is printed by a solution deposition process.
Here is an extract from the patent which explains the problem faced in any printing method for electronic devices:
In integrated circuits, the devices (e.g., TFT, capacitors, diodes, etc.) are generally connected to each other with metal lines (i.e., interconnects). Integrated circuits with good performance generally include interconnects with low resistivity, and thus not all metals are suitable for use as interconnects. Typical examples of suitable metals are Al, Cu, Au and Ag. Often, metals used for interconnects in integrated circuits do not form low resistivity contacts with the device electrodes (e.g., gate and source/drain electrodes), which are usually made with n+ and/or p+ doped silicon. Therefore, in order to fabricate integrated circuits with good performance, a contact layer formed between the n+/p+ silicon and the metal lines often provides relatively low resistivity between the devices and the interconnects. Typically, silicides are the preferred contact layers used in microelectronic devices, because they can provide ohmic contacts to heavily doped semiconductors (e.g. n+/p+ silicon and/or germanium).
This patent describes metal ink compositions that have high conductivity and low contact resistance and can therefore reduce the number of inks and printing steps required to manufacture a device. The patent also describes a method which comprises (a) forming a layer comprising silicon and/or germanium on a substrate, (b) depositing (e.g., by printing) a metal ink composition on the silicon-containing layer, and (c) curing the metal composition. In general, the metal ink compositions comprise a bulk metal and a silicide-forming transition metal source.
More details are available in the full patent specification which can be found here. Email me or leave a comment if you would like any further details.