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  • Katherine Hollingsworth

The Interaction of Device Features with Nano-Water Droplets

In 1959, in a world of decidedly macroscopic electronic devices, the physicist Richard Feynman famously announced that there was 'plenty of room at the bottom'.

More than half a century later, semiconductor manufacturers are increasingly confronting the physical realities of the nanoscale.

We are used to the macroscopic behavior of materials. In the world that we inhabit, we understand that a piece of silicon is rigid, that water flows under the influence of gravity, and that temperature can be easily measured with a thermometer. But at the nanoscale, physics is different. A column or pillar of silicon bends if it is thin enough, water molecules defy gravity to minimize their surface energy, and temperature is a local rather than system-wide property.

As device features are made ever smaller, cost and reliability issues present substantial challenges. And understanding the effects of locally imbalanced quantities of fluid, defects, and nano-dimensioned impurity particles becomes increasingly important.

The video above shows four 20x2 nano-meter silicon columns or pillars extending from a silicon base. This image is taken from a molecular dynamics trajectory, a single snapshot from one nanosecond of the time evolution of this system. This simulation, prepared and analyzed with MedeA-LAMMPS and using the PCFF+ forcefield, immediately shows that nano-water droplets can have profound affects on the smallest features of silicon surfaces. While silicon is resolutely rigid at the macroscopic level, when configured as a nanoscopic column, silicon bends, causing features to collide.

This is just one illustration of the type of insight that can be obtained using the MedeA environment. If you are interested in learning more about the ways that MedeA can be applied in the study of the properties of semiconductor devices and their processing, please drop us a line at

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