Posted: September 16, 2009

New Chip Fabrication Technology on the Verge of Volume Production

(Nanowerk News) Carl Zeiss, the world’s leading manufacturer of optical systems for chip fabrication, has now delivered a complete optical system for production-ready Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography (EUVL), a new technology for microchip fabrication. This optical system forms a core module of the first EUVL production system from the Dutch manufacturer and long-term partner to Carl Zeiss, ASML. Delivery of the complete EUVL system, starting at a rate of 60 wafers per hour, is planned in the second half of 2010. It is intended for production of microchips with structures in the 20 Nanometer range
“15 years ago, we launched research and development of EUV Lithography and have invested far in excess of 100 million Euros since then,” reports Dr. Peter Kürz, EUV Program Director at Carl Zeiss SMT in Oberkochen. “To date, ASML has installed two process development tools around the globe. Now its use in the volume production of microchips is within reach.”
This technology, for the development of which Peter Kürz and his team were nominated for the Future Award of the German Federal President in 2007, and which has been funded with a total of over 20 million euros both by the German Ministry of Education and Research and at a European level, offers long-term potential for ongoing miniaturization of chip structures. It operates with an exposure wavelength of 13.5 nanometers—almost 15 times shorter than the 193 nanometer technology currently in use. Thanks to this short exposure wavelength, it is possible to reduce the size of chip structures and increase their packing density.
ASML has already received five orders for the EUVL production system, with deliveries starting in 2010. "Our recent successes are important milestones which show that EUVL is making excellent progress as a cost effective single patterning technology. EUVL has the resolution power to carry Moore's law beyond the next decade," says Christian Wagner, Senior Product Manager at ASML.
Other positive news concerning the development of EUVL published during the past few weeks justify optimism. The Belgian IMEC institute (Leuven), for example, recently reported about the successful production of 22 nanometer SRAM cells using the EUV process development tool installed in its facility. Compared to the previous technology node, this resulted in a 44 % reduction in chip surface area—and therefore in a potential halving of production costs. The manufacturer of laser beam light sources for lithography, the US-based company Cymer, recently delivered the first source for integration into ASML´s EUVL production systems due in 2010.
In lithography, the core process used in chip fabrication, the specific patterns for circuits, transistors and capacitors are optically transferred from a mask to the wafer. For this purpose, an illumination system and a projection system are integrated into a wafer scanner. The shorter the wavelength of the light used for lithography, the finer the patterns that can be produced with it. Light with an extremely short wavelength of 13.5 nanometers is used for EUV Lithography. Illumination and projection optics therefore consist of several sequentially arranged, intricately shaped mirrors instead of the lenses normally used until now. The resolution achieved enables high chip packing densities—and therefore higher chip performance. EUV Lithography offers the potential of continuing the miniaturization process which has taken place practically since the invention of integrated circuits for at least another decade—and therefore of developing microchips with performance levels that are inconceivable today.
Source: Carl Zeiss (press release)
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