As microchips shrink, even tiny defects in the lines, dots and other shapes etched on them become major barriers to performance. Princeton engineers have now found a way to literally melt away such defects, using a process that could dramatically improve chip quality without increasing fabrication cost.In the most basic terms, they put a quartz crystal plate over the chip and blast it with a laser. The metal lines on the chip melt and flow a little, which fixes any breaks or jagged edges. How fricking simple is that?
Chou's method, termed Self-Perfection by Liquefaction, achieves this by melting the structures on a chip momentarily, and guiding the resulting flow of liquid so that it re-solidifies into the desired shapes. This is possible because natural forces acting on the molten structures, such as surface tension -- the force that allows some insects to walk on water -- smooth the structures into geometrically more accurate shapes. Lines, for instance, become straighter, and dots become rounder.Here's a picture of how well it works.
Now that's impressive!