Feeds

Moore's Law savior EUV faces uncertain future

'The End of Optical Lithography' has arrived - now what?

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

CPTF 2012 The optical lithography that etches the chips in your digital devices is reaching its limits, but exactly when its oft-touted replacement – extreme ultraviolet lithography, commonly known as EUV – will be ready for prime time remains unclear.

"There are still some technical challenges which, of course, lead to a certain degree of uncertainty as to when, exactly, EUV will become available," said IBM Distinguished Engineer Lars Liebmann, speaking at the Common Platform Technology Forum 2012 on Wednesday in Santa Clara, California.

Liebmann should know. As part of IBM's semiconductor R&D team, he focuses on research into "design technology and co-optimization for sub-resolution patterning of leading-edge technology nodes" – meaning that he's figuring out how to etch chips with smaller and smaller features.

Currently, "leading-edge technology nodes" are etched with the optical immersion-lithography technology known as 193i, which TSMC and IBM started using at 45nm, and Intel began using at 32nm. Unfortunately, as chip process sizes are shrinking to 14 nanometer and beyond, 193i is reaching the end of its usability.

Tellingly, Liebmann's talk was entitled "The End of Optical Lithography", and its core focus was on how the transition would be made from 193i to EUV – and on the challenges of getting from here to there.

EUV is a radically different lithography technology from 193i optical, Liebmann explained. Not only is its wavelength significantly shorter at 13.5-14nm compared with optical's 193nm, but the light is derived not from the argon fluoride (ArF) excimer laser used for 193i but, instead, from a plasma light source.

In addition, the EUV operation happens in an extreme vacuum, and not in ambient atmosphere, and instead of photons being the etching agents, Liebmann said, "you're actually relying on secondary electrons to trigger the reactions."

Liebmann also explained a number of other differences – such as the use of reflective masks and a completely different etching chemistry, but his core message was that the move to EUV is not an evolutionary step as was the move to 193i, but instead a revolutionary change.

"I just mention that," he said, "because early on when some brilliant mind renamed projection x-ray lithography to EUV lithography, people got this impression that, 'Oh, deep EUV? It's pretty much the same thing.' No, it's a fundamentally different approach."

Significant challenges remain to be sorted out, he emphasized. For one, at its current state of development, EUV is currently "at least one, maybe two orders of magnitude too low on the intensity," he said.

Some of EUV's complexities are due to how its light is generated. "Exploding microdroplets of tin in a vacuum with a high-powered laser to make light is a very complicated process," Liebmann said, in quite the understatement.

Part of the problem in EUV's research and development process, he said, is that "until you get sufficient flux out of your lightbulb, it's very difficult to develop the chemistry" of the resists being etched.

Diving deeper into process technology geekery, he explained this problem, saying, "If you improve the sensitivity of the resist to make up for the low source power, now you get into shot noise, and you end up with very rough sidewalls."

What's an EUV boffin to do, eh?

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
TEEN RAMPAGE: Kids in iPhone 6 'Will it bend' YouTube 'prank'
iPhones bent in Norwich? As if the place wasn't weird enough
George Clooney, WikiLeaks' lawyer wife hand out burner phones to wedding guests
Day 4: 'News'-papers STILL rammed with Clooney nuptials
iPAD-FONDLING fanboi sparks SECURITY ALERT at Sydney airport
Breaches screening rules cos Apple SCREEN ROOLZ, ok?
Crouching tiger, FAST ASLEEP dragon: Smugglers can't shift iPhone 6s
China's grey market reports 'sluggish' sales of Apple mobe
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
The British Museum plonks digital bricks on world of Minecraft
Institution confirms it's cool with joining the blocky universe
How the FLAC do I tell MP3s from lossless audio?
Can you hear the difference? Can anyone?
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.