Extreme Ultraviolet lithography could take over at the 9 nanometer level and beyond

The view of extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) has always been a bit rosy from this part of the world, where it is being born. So it’s no surprise that EUV held a relatively sunny spot in an otherwise fairly detailed and balanced semiconductor road map the IMEC research institute showed at an annual press event here.

The development of the latest MOPA light source for EUV put the weakest component in the long-delayed lithography system on a more steady footing, they said. Researchers now expect to demo an 80W light source in a working system by the end of the year, a 125W version next year and a 250W one capable of driving commercial throughput of 125 wafers/hour by the end of 2015.

At that cadence, chip makers still need to rely on prior generation immersion lithography for their initial offering of 10nm technology. However, they could be able to insert a pilot line of EUV at the same time, cutting over at least a few critical steps soon afterwards.

“I would not be surprised if they come up with a 9nm node using EUV,” said An Steegen, who manages the IMEC division that handles process technology research.

Immersion systems may need 22 masks at 10nm, up from ten at 28nm, essentially using costly triple patterning in a handful of layers and double patterning at all others. EUV could cut that down to ten masks at 10nm, researchers estimate.

Despite big investments from Intel, TSMC, and Samsung in ASML, EUV’s developer, there’s still no guarantee it will meet its planned schedule. In addition to the light source issues, EUV faces a handful of other challenges including the potential of embedded reticle defects no existing tool can find yet.

Steegen said EUV could survive additional delays. “I see there are lots of insertion points for EUV down the road in both 10nm and 7nm nodes — and a node lasts 6-10 years in manufacturing,” Steegen said.

In contrast to her upbeat view on EUV, Steegen was down on fully depleted silicon-on-insulator, an alternative to FinFETs championed by STMicroelectronics.


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