Violet chips

Ultraviolet rays could lead to the development of an advanced set of semiconductor chips

Published: Tuesday 15 October 1996

researchers in the us have shown that a technology called extreme ultraviolet light ( euv ) lithography may illuminate the path to the next generation of semiconductor chips. Chips manufactured with euv technology are likely to be 10 times faster than today's chips and will be able to store 1,000 times more information.

Violet light has a short wavelegnth of 0.4 microns (a micron is a millionth of a metre), that allows the focusing of extremely narrow strips of light which 'paint' the pathways for electrons on semiconductor materials.

"We have built the bridges to show that the euv lithography is feasible and it may be commercialised early," says Dan Kania, deputy leader of advanced microtechnology programme at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory near San Francisco. Researchers at Lawrence Livermore have identified and addressed two technical challenges that can be major breakthroughs for the euv technology.

The first advance made by the researchers is a new 'ion beam sputter deposition system' which has achieved a 300,000-fold reduction in the number of defects produced by the current methods within a semiconductor layer as it is deposited on the silicon chip surface. However, the defect rate has to be reduced further. The researchers made a second progress when they devised a better tool for measuring the accuracy of optical surfaces. With this advance, it will now be possible to build the optical systems necessary for euv lithography.

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