Feeds

Chip boffins demo 22-nanometer maskless wafer-baking

A possible savior when Moore's Law hits the light wall

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

An international consortium of chip boffins has demonstrated a maskless wafer-baking technology that they say "meets the industry requirement" for next-generation 14- and 10-nanometer process nodes.

Current chip-manufacturing lithography uses masks to guide light onto chip wafers in order to etch a chip's features. However, as process sizes dip down to 20nm and below, doubling up on masks begins to become necessary – an expensive proposition.

At last November's 40th birthday party for the pioneering Intel 4004 microprocesser, The Reg asked Intel Labs' director of microprocessor technology research Shekhar Borkar if multiple masks might be the solution to ever-tinier process nodes. He told us, that, yes, it would be possible, but that adding masks increases both complexity and cost.

One solution would be to eliminate lithography masks altogether, and etch the chips directly with guided electron beams – think old-style cathode-ray tubes, but with much smaller, much more tightly controlled beams.

That's exactly what MAPPER Lithography of Delft, The Netherlands, has done in conjunction with CEA-Leti, the French Research and Technology Institute, in a project dubbed IMAGINE, an effort joined by such industry heavyweights as TSMC and STMicroelectronics, as well as Nissan Chemical, TOK, Dow Chemical, JSR Micro, Synopsys, Mentor Graphics, Sokudo, Tokyo Electron, and Aselta Nanographics.

MAPPER's breakthrough has been to demonstrate a chip-etching technology that uses 10,000 precisely directed electron beams that etch features directly onto a wafer. As explained in their announcement, "The major achievement has been obtained in resolution: 22nm dense lines and spaces and 22nm dense contact holes in positive chemically amplified resist have been successfully resolved."

Don't expect this technology to supplant mask-based photolithography any time soon, however. This year, MAPPER plans to introduce a "pre-production" version of its Matrix system that will have a slo-mo throughput of one wafer per hour, and which the company plans to scale up to 10 wafers per hour.

"Given the great results we have obtained at CEA-Leti thus far," MAPPER CEO Bert Jan Kampherbeek said in his company's announcement, "we are proud to announce that one of the first Matrix systems will be installed at CEA-Leti to enable the continuation of the IMAGINE programme."

The Matrix system will indeed be slow – but so are current versions of one of traditional chip lithography's waiting-in-the-wings saviors, extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography "To have a fab running economically, you need to build about two to three hundred wafers an hour," the head of ARM's Physical IP Division Simon Segars said at last year's Hot Chips conference. "EUV machines today can do about five."

The jury remains out on what will take over from conventional lithography when it hits the multi-mask wall – but seeing as how even EUV will require expensive masks, the maskless Matrix system and its follow-ons just became a viable contender. ®

Application security programs and practises

More from The Register

next story
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
For Lenovo US, 8-inch Windows tablets are DEAD – long live 8-inch Windows tablets
Reports it's killing off smaller slabs are greatly exaggerated
Microsoft unsheathes cheap Android-killer: Behold, the Lumia 530
Say it with us: I'm King of the Landfill-ill-ill-ill
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Seventh-gen SPARC silicon will accelerate Oracle databases
Uncle Larry's mutually-optimised stack to become clearer in August
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Apple orders huge MOUNTAIN of 80 MILLION 'Air' iPhone 6s
Bigger, harder trouser bulges foretold for fanbois
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.