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Research conducted by Princeton's Stephen Chou that could greatly reduce the size and cost of computer chips has been named by two magazines as one of the top technology breakthroughs of 2002.
Technology Review, an influential monthly magazine published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, listed Chou's work among 10 innovations that "will change the world by dramatically affecting the way lives are led and business is conducted." The magazine features the work on the cover of its February issue.
Chou, the Joseph Elgin Professor of Engineering, invented a fast and inexpensive method for making extremely small patterns in silicon chips, which is a key requirement in building ever more powerful computer processors and memory chips.
His technique, called Laser-Assisted Direct Imprint, also was named the nanotechnology innovation of the year by the Forbes/Wolfe Nanotech Report, a joint publication of Forbes magazine and venture capital firm Lux Capital. The report cited Chou's work for eliminating "the costly and time-consuming step of etching, or photolithography, the conventional way to make silicon transistors used in today's electronics."
Chou's method could allow electronics manufacturers to increase the density of transistors on silicon chips by 100-fold while streamlining the production process. Researchers in Chou's laboratory used the new technique to make patterns with features measuring 10 nanometers -- 10 millionths of millimeter. The method involves pressing a mold against a piece of silicon and applying a laser pulse for 20 billionths of a second. The surface of the silicon melts and resolidifies around the mold.
This nanoimprinting technique might make a single chip in a quarter of a millionth of a second, compared to the conventional etching process, which typically takes 10 or 20 minutes per chip.
Chou's research also promises to accelerate research in medicine, biotechnology and materials science, which increasingly use nanoscale devices and structures.
Three Princeton mathematics professors have been honored by the American Mathematical Society for their advances in the field.
John Mather won the 2003 George David Birkhoff Prize in Applied Mathematics, which the society jointly awards every three years with the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics to recognize outstanding contributions to applied mathematics. Nicholas Katz and Peter Sarnak received the 2003 Levi Conant Prize, an annual award that recognizes an outstanding expository paper published in one of the society's journals in the preceding five years.
Mather was honored for his "exceptional depth, power and originality," the society said. Some of Mather's earliest work in topology has had important applications in economics and physics. He has also made major contributions to dynamical systems theory.
Katz and Sarnak were honored for their expository paper, "Zeroes of Zeta Functions and Symmetry," published in the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society in 1999. "The paper, a model of high-level exposition, presents a rich mix of intensive numerical exploration, conjectures and theorems," the society said.
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