Cutting Silicon With a Proton Accelerator Instead of a Saw

Those proton accelerators aren't just good for particle physics anymore.

All of the computer technology everywhere is built on chips. These chips are made of silicon that has been manufactured into the purest material on earth. And then that silicon is cut into wafers with a saw. A really nice saw, but a saw. 


The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal in conversation with industry entrepreneurs shaping our future. See full coverage
If that seems like an odd way of creating the basic component of the most advanced technology on Earth, Twin Creeks Technologies Siva Sivaram would agree with you. His company has created a machine -- a proton accelerator, like the ones used in particle physics -- that sends protons plowing into a sheet of silicon. They embed themselves in a layer at a depth that varies with the energy you flow through the machine. When the material is heated, an slice of silicon detaches starting at the layer of protons that were delivered. 

Sivaram's pitch is that they've managed to get these machines tuned just right so that they can create ultrathin silicon wafers that deliver the same or better performance as their fatter competitors. And that's very significant for solar cells because materials costs are a very large slice of their overall cost. 
Presented by

The Blacksmith: A Short Film About Art Forged From Metal

"I'm exploiting the maximum of what you can ask a piece of metal to do."

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

An Ingenious 360-Degree Time-Lapse

Watch the world become a cartoonishly small playground

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

Video

The Rise of the Cat Tattoo

How a Brooklyn tattoo artist popularized the "cattoo"

More in Technology

Just In