Which IBM patent do you think is the most significant? Why?
Qing Cao:I think the disclosure about using glassy
carbon as a precursor to form a carbide contact to carbon nanotube FETs (field
effect transistors) in a self-aligned fashion is incredibly significant. At a 5
nm technology mode – which is the target for nanotube technology to enter
production – contact is critical for device performance.
This invention, where we utilize glassy carbon (a common
material in microelectro-mechanical systems (MEMS) but not in microelectronics)
as a dummy contact to nanotubes can significantly improve the quality of
contact between the electrode and high density carbon nanotube arrays, since
carbon has a high affinity with carbon. In addition, glassy carbon can be
converted to metal carbide. Together with underlying nanotubes, this allows the
adoption of a self-aligned process to fabricate these tiny devices.
Carbon nanotubes have the potential to lead to smaller and
faster microprocessors, and reduce power consumption – essentially keeping up
with Moore's Law.
Has there been an invention, inventor or patent that has
QC: Yes. For example, the patent I mentioned above is
inspired by an old IBM patent (US
#7,598,516). In addition, as a new IBMer, I benefit from working with those
experienced inventor at the Thomas J Watson
Research Center. For example, many of my patent ideas come from discussions
with IBM Master Inventor Dr. Shu-jen Han.
What wisdom can you share about creativity, inspiration,
problem solving or invention?
QC: As the old Chinese saying goes, “stones from other hills
may serve to polish the jade of this one” – meaning that the old method and wisdom
from other areas may help to overcome big problems in your own field.
Do you have rituals or habits for finding inspiration?
QC: Many of my creative ideas actually emerge during my commute.
Talking with colleagues is another major source of good ideas.
What advice do you have for hopeful inventors?
QC: Don’t restrict yourself to your own project or research
area. Explore other areas and collaborate with colleagues, and creative ideas
and inventions will come naturally.
It is fun to solve problems and it is exciting to be the first person to
demonstrate something useful.