The first full-scale prototype machine for making ICs by using extreme-ultraviolet (EUV) light has been completed, proving that the technology works. This breakthrough should lead to microprocessors that are 10 times faster than today's devices, as well as memory chips with corresponding increases in storage capacity.
EUV lithography was developed because current imaging technology will most likely reach its limits in a few years. Present deep-ultraviolet (DUV) lithography technology will enable manufacturers to eventually print circuits as narrow as 0.1 µm. EUV lithography technology, though, will yield circuits that are 0.03 µm wide.
Today's DUV steppers employ light sources with a 248-nm wavelength. EUV light's wavelength is approximately 13 nm, which is nearly 20 times shorter.
The prototype machine is known as the engineering test stand (ETS). It was developed by an industry-government collaboration comprising three U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories and a consortium of semiconductor companies called the EUV LLC (see the figure). Assembled at Sandia National Labs in Livermore, Calif., the ETS will be used by EUV LLC partners and lithography tool suppliers to refine the EUV technology.
This work will set the stage for a prototype commercial machine that meets industry requirements for high-volume chip production. Processors built using EUV technology are expected to reach speeds of up to 10 GHz by 2005 or 2006. By comparison, today's Pentium 4 processors run at 1.7 GHz.
The collaboration includes Intel, Motorola, Advanced Micro Devices, Micron Technology, Infineon Technologies, IBM, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories.
For more information, check out www.ca.sandia.gov.