Imec and ASML announce EUV lithography collaboration

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imec, the research and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies, and ASML, a leading developer of lithographic equipment, have announced the next step in their ongoing and extensive collaboration.

The two are looking to accelerate the adoption of EUV lithography for high-volume production, including the current latest available equipment for EUV (0.33 Numerical Aperture, NA). Moreover, they are looking to explore the potential of the next-generation high-NA EUV lithography to enable printing of even smaller nanoscale devices advancing semiconductor scaling towards the post 3 nanometer Logic node. As a result they have established a joint high-NA EUV research lab.

In 2014, they created a joint research centre, the Advanced Patterning Center, to optimize lithography technology for advanced CMOS integration and to prepare the ecosystem to support advance patterning
requirements. The next stage of this co-operation will see the installation of ASML’s most advanced and high-volume production dedicated EUV scanner (NXE:3400B) in imec’s cleanroom.

Using imec’s infrastructure and advanced technology platforms, researchers and partner companies will be able to pro-actively analyse and solve technical challenges such as defects, reliability and yield, and as such help to accelerate the EUV technology’s industrialisation.

With a 250W light source, ASML’s newest EUV system throughput will be more than 125 wafers per hour, one of the industry’s most important requirements for high-volume production. The NXE:3400B will also be
equipped with the latest alignment and leveling sensors, to enable optimal process control at this high throughput. This will facilitate the overlay matching of the NXE:3400B to that of the latest immersion scanner, NXT:2000i, that will also be installed in imec’s cleanroom in 2019. In addition, ASML and imec will expand the metrology capability with new ASML YieldStar optical metrology and ASML-HMI Multi-electron beam metrology equipment, allowing more accurate and faster evaluation of nanoscale structures.

The joint high-NA EUV research lab will see researchers from both organisations experiment with the next generation of EUV lithography at higher NA. Systems with a higher NA project the EUV light onto the wafer under larger angles, improving resolution, and enabling printing of smaller features. More specifically, the new high-NA EUV system, EXE:5000, that will be installed in the joint research lab, will have an NA of 0.55 instead of 0.33 in current NXE:3400 EUV systems.

Already, the first joint scientific projects to facilitate the introduction of high-NA EUV, are ongoing. In the joint research lab, ASML and imec will perform research on the manufacturing of the most advanced nanoscale devices by high-NA EUV and assist the ecosystem of equipment and material suppliers to prepare for the introduction of high-NA EUV technology to the industry.

Commenting Luc Van den hove, President and CEO of imec, said: “The new EUV scanners and
ASML metrology equipment will allow our industry partners to perform collaborative research on the most advanced and industry relevant lithography and metrology equipment. ASML and imec have a nearly 30 year long tradition of joint research, leading to breakthrough patterning research to advance the semiconductor industry roadmap.”