Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Un-masking a faster solution for chip-making

02.12.2008
European researchers have developed a promising solution to ‘mask-less’ semiconductor lithography and generated intense interest among major industry players.

Mask-less lithography (ML2) promises to rapidly reduce the costs and production times associated with low-volume device manufacture and prototyping. A mask is a type of template that allows semiconductor manufacturers to print the circuit design onto a silicon wafer for microchip production.

But masks are very expensive and several are needed for one chip.

“The cost of masks is also rising as chip features become smaller and more sophisticated,” explains Hans Loeschner, administrator of the RIMANA project.

The project was set up to demonstrate the feasibility of a new technique for mask-less lithography, called PML2, or Projection Mask-Less Lithography. It uses a variety of technologies in combination to burn a chip without a mask.

RIMANA’s work has been wildly successful. The technology is now part of another EU-funded project, MAGIC, that will refine PML2 and examine alternatives, even though RIMANA will only finish its work in autumn 2008.

Better yet, the industry is already intensely interested in the work currently in completion. RIMANA’s lead partner, IMS Nanofabrication, is in advanced talks with a leading industry player to develop the current prototype into a commercial model, possibly as early as 2011.

Further innovations

Leading industry figures like Dr Burn Lin, senior director of the lithography division of the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the leading semiconductor foundry in the world, believe that platforms like the RIMANA PML2 technology could have a very long life.

Further development on the RIMANA concept, Lin believes, could push the technology to respond to even greater challenges in the semiconductor lithography space.

Semiconductor lithography is essentially printing for microchips. The chips are printed with the tiny channels, gates and transistors that make up modern integrated circuits (ICs).

“Just like the printing industry, you have different printing machines for different purposes. A newspaper would have an enormous printer installation, that would be like Intel or AMD producing microprocessor chips or Micron and Samsung printing memory chips, but other solutions are needed for small print-runs and one-off projects,” explains Dr Loeschner.

As semiconductors for all applications become more sophisticated, current solutions to the problem are no longer adequate to meet demand. “The industry needs a cost effective and fast system, and now. There is already demand for a system that can produce chips for low-volume applications, for device development and for rapid prototyping,” Dr Loeschner reveals.

New twist on old idea

The EU-funded RIMANA project looked at a combination of established technologies for a radical potential solution. “The idea behind PML2 has been around for a long time, a similar system was proposed already in the 1980s, but there were problems that were impossible to solve at the time,” Dr Loeschner states.

RIMANA’s solution does not use a single Electron Beam Direct Write unit, which is normally used to make masks. Instead, the PML2 technology uses an electron beam that is directed to an aperture plate system that splits the beam into many thousands of smaller beams.

Next, a blanking plate may deflect individual beams. Only the un-deflected beams are projected to the silicon wafer surface to create a pattern, and that pattern is needed for the circuit fabrication.

But that simple explanation overlooks a large number of major innovations. For example, the company found a way to reduce by 200 the small beams produced by the aperture. “A 25mm diameter electron beam could be split into many hundred thousand micrometer- sized beams, and we then reduce those beams down to less than 20 nanometres,” explains Dr Loeschner.

Testing technology

RIMANA tested its technology on 32nm and 22nm half-pitch (hp) circuit patterns. Half-pitch refers to a measure of lines and spaces to separate it from other elements within the circuit. A smallest resolution of just 16nm hp was achieved, surpassing the 22nm hp target of the RIMANA project.

Now, lead partner IMS Nanofabrication, together with the RIMANA partners, is putting the finishing touches to a programmable blanking plate. This uses an integrated CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) electronics to control beam deflection and is a major advance for the technology because it means that the patterns created by the PML2 system can be changed quickly.

All in all, it is a very complete, functioning proof-of-concept system. Within the MAGIC project, in 2008 a pre-commercialisation model is being realised followed, in 2009, by a PML2 Alpha Tool. Work remains to be done to make the system more robust, but it could be available commercially very soon.

The RIMANA project received funding from the ICT strand of the Sixth Framework Programme for research.

This is the first of a two-part special feature on RIMANA

Christian Nielsen | alfa
Further information:
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults/index.cfm/section/news/tpl/article/BrowsingType/Features/ID/90225

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht How protons move through a fuel cell
22.06.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

nachricht Fraunhofer IZFP acquires lucrative EU project for increasing nuclear power plant safety
21.06.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Zerstörungsfreie Prüfverfahren IZFP

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>