MIT Advances E-Beam Lithography for Chips

It is unclear how far in the future, as the current immersion lithography technology has been much more stubborn than we originally thought a decade ago. Companies such as Intel, have successfully pushed out the adoption of the extremely expensive transition to extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) so far.

MIT researchers now believe that e-beam lithography, which is commonly used for prototyping and is currently a slow and low-volume production process for semiconductors, could be an option for chip manufacturers as the technology can be scaled down to structures of 9 nm. Compared to e-beam lithography, traditional photolithography uses light that shines through the entire surface of a mask at once. The e-beam uses electrons that scans across the surface of the resist (a material that covers each layer of a chip) on a row-by-row basis.

The MIT researchers said that they were able to increase the efficiency of e-beam lithography by using a thinner mask, which requires less energy per beam and enables a higher number of parallel electron beams to accelerate the production process. They also said they used a common table salt solution to "develop the resist, hardening the regions that received slightly more electrons but not those that received slightly less."

There is doubt that the MIT approach will find its way into production. One manufacturer of lithography systems, Mapper, said that the presented system was "a little bit too sensitive."

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  • house70
    "One manufacturer of lithography systems, Mapper, said that the presented system was "a little bit too sensitive."

    Time will prove Mapper wrong. If you can't imagine something, that doesn't mean it's impossible.
  • Anonymous
    house70 this is not a question about imagination they are basically saying the resist system is too sensitive when combined the noise inherent in their exposure tool to give the type of results customers are asking for. Sounds like the researchers haven't been listening hard enough to their end customers which strikes me as bad business.
  • phatboe
    OK I don't know too much about transistor lithography but I thought the main problem with going to smaller scales wasn't so much that they couldn't make smaller transistors but that was the transistor size shrinks electron tunneling which leads to current leakage increases.

    How will using an E-beam help with that?