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Execs weigh in on right path for litho

Posted: 24 Mar 2010  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:lithography  extreme ultraviolet  EUV  e-beam 

Intel Corp. led the formation of EUV LLC consortium in 1997, which planned to commercialize extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) by 2005. Advanced Micro Devices, IBM, Infineon and Micron were among the companies that signed on to the effort.

EUV was supposed to have replaced conventional optical lithography by now. But optical lithography is still driving the semiconductor engine, while EUV now is targeted for early production in 2012—or perhaps 2015 or 2016—depending on who's offering the estimate. Some say it may never work.

Others are pushing for nanoimprint, maskless lithography or an emerging technology called self-assembly. And there are those who hope to extend today's optical lithography indefinitely.

Was EUV the wrong bet for the industry? If so, what should it be working on instead? And who will benefit in the long run?

During the recent SPIE Advanced Lithography conference and other events, EE Times posed these questions to lithography experts and executives. Here are their responses.

Though it originally pushed for EUV, Intel is now weighing a mix-and-match lithography strategy. Senior fellow and director of advanced lithography at Intel's technology and manufacturing group Yan Borodovsky, said, "I think complementary lithography is the right direction [for future IC designs]. . . . 193nm lithography is the most capable and most mature technology that can meet both fidelity and cost-of-ownership requirements, but it has a weakness in terms of resolution. Complementing 193 nm with a new technology might be the best cost-of-ownership, performance and fidelity solution. The complementary technology could be either EUV or e-beam lithography.

"I think introducing EUV as a complementary technology has its challenges for high-volume manufacturing. Introducing multibeam e-beam as a complementary technology [also has its challenges]."

Borodovsky added, "NAND flash makers have a much higher probability of introducing something like EUV before we do. Logic actually has more degrees of freedom in terms of layout, design rules and restrictions. So I can see why Samsung will be more aggressive to deploy EUV. They have no choice but to go to smaller wavelengths, higher NA [numerical apertures] and a K1 of 0.25."

VLSI Technology Inc. CEO G. Dan Hutcheson commented, "I think the industry is going in the right direction. It's a lot better in this decade than in the last decade. I remember in the 1990s, when everything was on the [next-generation lithography] road map and no one would pull anything off.

"Meanwhile, we have an ongoing business that allocates so many dollars for R&D every year. And if you look out there for future nodes, you need to have two to three alternatives over your existing technology to make sure you can go down Moore's Law."

He furthered, "As a last resort, e-beam will always write fine geometries. The downside is that it violates Moore's Law. Imprint is a very interesting technology; the technology needs to be developed. EUV, too.

"Then we have the existing technology, which is double patterning. But [if I'm a chip maker] I am going to spend a lot of money on [double patterning], because now my litho tool productivity is basically cut in half. So my cost per wafer doubles. And I am going to need twice as many tools, which is great for the equipment industry."


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