• Intermolecular
  • Blog Post

Son Hoang

Publish Date

17 FEB 2022


Senior Data Scientist, nanomaterials and nanotechnologies

What kind of scientist are you at Intermolecular®, and what do you do?  I am currently focusing on dielectric materials for DRAM and 3D NAND memory. In these devices, there are many different functional dielectric layers such as high-dielectric constant (k) for the capacitors and low-k for shallow trench isolation. We need to develop new materials and the corresponding processes that meet increasingly stringent requirements as we try to increase the density and lower the cost of the memory. In my role, I support a broad range of the advanced physical characterization so that we can have a mechanistic understanding to engineer the materials.

What is your favorite part about being a scientist, and how did you get  interested in science?
  My favorite part about being a scientist is Innovation. As a scientist, I often encounter novel problems that require innovative solutions. Electronic technologies are fascinating to me since there are always new challenges as they advance. As a kid, I loved games and always wanted to know how to make game consoles from raw materials such as sand and mineral
ores. However, I was not seriously interested in materials science until I was in high school (2000), after hearing a talk on the invention of the buckyball. The idea of a new class of materials, called nanomaterials which have many unique and novel properties that can revolutionize human life from health care to communication, inspired my passion for materials, chemistry and science.        

How does your work contribute to material innovation for the future of technology? Novel materials with unique properties and the corresponding processes are needed to make faster and cheaper memory and computing devices. Physical characterization provides a mechanistic understanding of the materials. Therefore, it is essential to discover, develop and engineer such materials.

Tell us about a current project you are working on and how this is an example of materials innovation? The charge leakage in the capacitor increases power consumption and reduces the reliability of DRAM. The understanding of the electronic band structure of the interface between the high-k dielectric and metal is crucial to designing an effective strategy to control the leakage current. We recently developed a workflow to determine the interfacial band structure entirely based on X-ray photoemission spectroscopy (XPS).  XPS is a physical characterization method conventionally used to analyze the composition, chemical states, and valence band structures of materials. In the workflow, we also employ XPS to determine the work function of metal and the bandgap of the ultrathin dielectric layer, thereby allowing us to build the band structure of the interface and providing insight into the potential leakage.