Water can shrink chip dimensions

Thursday, 08 July, 2004

Semiconductor manufacturers will be able to pursue a production method that will enable them to produce new generations of computer chips using existing equipment.

Creating ever more powerful computer chips relies on being able to increasingly miniaturise the features on those chips. Industry had thought it might be nearing the end of the useful life of equipment that creates features using 193 nm wavelength light.

However, a new method called immersion lithography uses a thin layer of water like a lens to shorten the effective wavelengths of ultraviolet light used in patterning semiconductor chips. The method relies on the fact that light travels slower through water than air.

The frequency of the light remains the same, so the distance between peaks (the wavelength) must shorten to compensate.

The method should enable manufacturers to use 193 nm equipment to create circuit lines and other features at least as small as 45 nm.

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