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New Materials And Processes Promise Faster, Denser ICs—Atom By Atom

Advances in dielectric materials, wafer cleaning, metrology, lithography, and other IC manufacturing technologies took the spotlight last month at Semicon West in San Francisco. Tens of thousands of manufacturing and materials specialists converged on the Moscone Center to see the next generation of process equipment and materials. Here are a few highlights.

The RadOx oxide deposition system from Applied Materials delivers a tenfold improvement in insulating oxide reliability, which reduces device leakage. It also significantly improves productivity. Manufacturers of next-generation flash memory devices will put this combination to good use.

Additionally, Applied unveiled its Black Diamond II low-k dielectric film technology. This second-generation intermetal insulator delivers a k-value of less than 2.5. It also will permit the continued scaling of copper/low-k interconnects to 45-nm features and smaller, enabling faster, denser ICs.

Able to clean wafers better than ever, FSI International's latest process will meet the needs of chip manufacturers well ahead of the guidelines for material loss established by the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (

These guidelines call for a maximum material loss per cleaning cycle of 0.4 Å at the 45-nm node. Since many semiconductor manufacturers don't want to suffer a loss of more than about 0.1 Å, FSI has improved on its three major cleaning technologies—cryogenic aerosol, spray, and immersion—to eventually reach that goal.

Achieving ever smaller features, ASML Holding NV unveiled the industry's highest numerical-aperture (NA) immersion lithography system. It will let chip manufacturers produce chips based on 45-nm features.

The TwinScan XT:1700i is a 193-nm immersion scanner with an NA of 1.2, exceeding previous systems by 20%. The system's catadioptric lens design combines refractive components with mirrors to create a hyper NA lens that delivers a maximum field size of 26 by 33 mm—the largest in the industry.

And, Oxford nanoScience demonstrated a microscope that reveals atomic-level semiconductor structures (see the figure). The Laser 3-Dimensional Atom Probe (Laser 3DAP) offers atom-by-atom visualization of the structure of semiconductor materials and devices. Its femtosecond laser evaporates atoms from the surface of the material under test. Each atom is then analyzed according to its mass, and a position-sensitive detector records the original position in the sample.

Applied Materials Inc.

ASML Holding NV

FSI International Inc.

Oxford nanoScience Ltd.

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