28 February 2011

Where's lithography going?

The semiconductor industry has seen some trying times of late, but the energy feels strongly positive today, on the first day of the lithography community’s annual gathering in San Jose. And the perspective is strongly forward-looking, as evidenced by the first two talks at SPIE Advanced Lithography.

The meeting began with all-symposium plenary talks, as it has for most of the 35 years it has been held.

EUV was front-and-center in IMEC CEO Luc Van den hove’s picture of the future; IMEC has invested in ASML’s new NXE3100 pre-production EUV lithography scanner. Van den hove shared his vision of how applications of semiconductor technology will further enhance human capabilities and presented the necessary device roadmap to make that vision a reality.

Luc Van den hove (IMEC)


"We are people of bits and bytes," he said. "Just imagine a day without your smart phone.” That demand, he noted, creates an increasingly large need to lower energy consumption to realize true advances that will help solve the large problems that mankind faces, among them:
  • sensor applications for monitoring air or food quality
  • growing interest in 3D video displays with applications in entertainment, teleconferencing, and medical procedures
  • eco-friendly autonomous cars
  • mating microfluidics and biosensors to enable more preventative, predictive care for a population that will see a doubling in the number of 60+ people by the year 2050.
In the morning’s second plenery talk, Shang-yi Chiang of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation styled Moore's Law for the next decade. Chiang noted that so far optical lithography has been the key to staying aligned with Moore's Law.
Shang-yi Chiang (TSMC)

However, Chiang said, if one looks at a comparison of the costs of producing at lower and lower nodes, one can see that extension of current ArF immersion techniques will become increasingly more costly than EUV or multiple-electron-beam direct write (MEBDW). So, he said, based solely on economics, it's clear that technology migration to next-generation lithography is necessary to sustain Moore's Law.

Conversations throughout the week will move both theory and technology forward. As Chiang noted, when it comes to lithography, the future is in the hands of the attendees of this conference.

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