Nanoscale temperature mapping in operating microelectronic devices

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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/hertz-1/2, an accuracy of 10%, and nanometer-scale resolution. Many common metals and semiconductors have sufficiently sharp plasmon resonances to serve as their own thermometers.




Mecklenburg, M., Hubbard, W. A., White, E. R., Dhall, R., Cronin, S. B., Aloni, S., & Regan, B. C. (2015). Nanoscale temperature mapping in operating microelectronic devices. Science, 347(6222), 629–632.

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