Nanoscale temperature mapping in operating microelectronic devices

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Science  06 Feb 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6222, pp. 629-632
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa2433

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Plasmons can map temperature on the nanoscale

Determining temperature on small length scales can be challenging: Direct probes can alter sample temperature, and radiation probes are limited by the wavelength of the light used. Mecklenberg et al. show how the bulk plasmon resonance of aluminum can be used to map the temperature on the nanoscale with transmission electron microscopy (see the Perspective by Colliex). Many other metals and semiconductors also have plasmon resonances that could also be used for temperature imaging.

Science, this issue p. 629; see also p. 611


Modern microelectronic devices have nanoscale features that dissipate power nonuniformly, but fundamental physical limits frustrate efforts to detect the resulting temperature gradients. Contact thermometers disturb the temperature of a small system, while radiation thermometers struggle to beat the diffraction limit. Exploiting the same physics as Fahrenheit’s glass-bulb thermometer, we mapped the thermal expansion of Joule-heated, 80-nanometer-thick aluminum wires by precisely measuring changes in density. With a scanning transmission electron microscope and electron energy loss spectroscopy, we quantified the local density via the energy of aluminum’s bulk plasmon. Rescaling density to temperature yields maps with a statistical precision of 3 kelvin/hertz1/2, an accuracy of 10%, and nanometer-scale resolution. Many common metals and semiconductors have sufficiently sharp plasmon resonances to serve as their own thermometers.

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