10 July 2012

Will Intel's investment break the euv log jam?

Lithography is probably the biggest challenge facing those developing next generation semiconductor manufacturing equipment. The reason is that the current approach – 193nm immersion lithography – has just about run out of steam.

The problem is the features being created are much smaller than the wavelength of the light being used. Innovative ways of getting around this fundamental problem have been developed – including double patterning – but they have only provided breathing room, rather than the way forward. Double, triple or even quad patterning can produce the feature sizes required by advanced nodes, but at the expense of many more process steps – and therefore cost.
For a decade or so, extreme ultraviolet (euv) lithography systems have been under development and seen as the way forward. EUV generates energy – it's a bit of a stretch to call it light – with a much smaller wavelength. But there are problems. It needs to operate in a vacuum and uses a complex system of mirrors which absorb a lot of the energy generated. It's also slow – currently an order of magnitude behind 193nm – and consumes huge amounts of power. Unusually for the industry, it appears the challenges are not being solved.
In essence, more energy needs to be generated for longer in order to speed throughput. A US start up called Zplasma claims its euv solution – which creates a xenon plasma using a variant of fusion energy – does just that.
However, an indication of the industry's frustration – even desperation –with euv progress comes with Intel's massive investment into lithography specialist ASML. It's ploughing $1billion into R&D over the next five years, including addressing some challenges related to 450mm wafers. It's thought this investment could bring euv development forward by two years.
Intel has moved subtly over the recent past from saying 'we'll use euv as and when' to saying 'we'll use self aligned double patterning and if euv comes along, we'll use it'. But does the investment mean Intel has a more pressing need than it appears?
Investing $1bn in ASML's R&D may not unblock the logjam unless some of the money flows to those companies developing euv light sources. The 'state of the art' for a light source is currently around 100W. Improving throughput by a factor of 10 implies the need for a 1kW light source – and that's not on the cards at the moment. Without that, euv goes nowhere.
Recently, a TI executive claimed euv was 'tomorrow's technology – and always will be'. Is it possible this perennial throwaway line might actually be true in this case?

Author
Graham Pitcher

Supporting Information

This material is protected by Findlay Media copyright
See Terms and Conditions.
One-off usage is permitted but bulk copying is not.
For multiple copies contact the sales team.

Do you have any comments about this article?


Add your comments

Name
 
Email
 
Comments
 

Your comments/feedback may be edited prior to publishing. Not all entries will be published.
Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Related Articles

Amp works at 50% efficiency

Researchers from the Universities of Bristol and Cardiff have created an ...

Materials breakthrough

A technique to study the interface between materials, developed at the National ...

Quantum logic gate created

Professor Gerhard Rempe, director of the Max Planck Institute of Quantum ...

Down to the wire

Once the plain old telephone service, the role of the telephone wire continues ...

Within touching distance

Graphene is starting to filter onto the market. HEAD claims its tennis racquets ...

Making light work of photonics

Today's world is permeated by electronics, from industry to communications, ...

NI Trend Watch 2014

This report from National Instruments summarises the latest trends in the ...

Capactive sensing

This whitepaper looks at a number of capacitive sensing applications to ...

Altium's Innovation Station

An introduction to the Altium Innovation Station. It includes an overview of ...

IBM tackles 22nm challenges

IBM has announced the semiconductor industry’s first computationally based ...

BEEAs 2013

9th October 2014, 8 Northumberland, London

Self-destructing electronics

Researchers at Iowa State University have created transient electronics that ...

MEMS switch for 'true 4G'

General Electric has created a 3GHz RF MEMS switch that can handle up to 5kW of ...

Smart fabrics developed at NPL

NPL has developed a new method to produce conductive textiles. The technique ...

Truth is stranger than fiction

On April Fool's Day, you survey newspapers, the TV and the web for those less ...

Fast forward?

It's now four years since technology entrepreneur Dr Hermann Hauser produced a ...

More support for technology

Last week's budget saw further support from the Government for technology - ...

Nathan Hill, director, NGI

Research into graphene won Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov the Nobel prize in ...

Brent Hudson, Sagentia

Sagentia's ceo tells Graham Pitcher how the consulting company is anticipating ...

Prof Donal Bradley, Imperial

Graham Pitcher talks to a researcher who was 'there at the start' of the ...