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Top 10 Facts Gleaned At EUV Litho Workshop

Ultraviolet light bulb
IMAGE CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons / Artist: Anakin101

Ah, chipmaking: Unlike the early days of lithography, it’s no longer as simple as just shining some light onto a mask and creating a pattern. Now, the actual photons have to be created through torturous means. That means starting from scratch, more or less, in terms of light sources, machine configuration, photoresist and mask design, among other things (oh, so many other things). I’ve collated the ten most interesting new things I learned about extreme ultraviolet lithography at the EUV Litho workshop last week in Honolulu, Hawaii.

10. The end of Moore’s Law is always seven years away.
Lithography guru Chris Mack explained this tenet in a tutorial on microchip lithography, his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. Why seven?

The next generation (say the chips with 32-nm feature sizes Intel plans to ship this fall) is already in development; the following generation is in full R & D phase (22 nm in 2011), and the one right after that is already a gleam in the eye of the semiconductor researcher (15nm in 2013). The one right after (11 nm) that is the one no one’s really thought about yet (2015?), and they see only problems without solutions. And since that adds up to about seven years, it’s the ever-moving horizon beyond which all progress breaks down: human sacrifice, cats and dogs living together, transistors obstinately refusing to shed another nanometer.

Mack, as I have mentioned, has a bet with workshop organizer Vivek Bakshi that EUV will go the way of the dodo, or at least the way of 157-nm lithography: “Everyone will talk about it and talk about it for two more years,” he predicted, “and then after two years no one will ever talk about it again at all.”

The stakes? Mack’s Lotus. Bakshi says he already has a set of “EUVL” license plates—in fact he has two, because he “accidentally” ordered an extra set. Next year, he says, he’s going to give the annual EUV Litho workshop award in the form of a laminated EUVL license plate.

9. You can make 15-nm features with 193-nm light.
At least, that’s what Intel’s Sam Sivakumar said in his keynote on Wednesday. I’m talking about the 15-nanometer process node, which as we know from Bill Arnold’s article, is kind of an invalid concept these days. But for purposes of comparison, today’s cutting edge chips are at the 45-nm node, meaning the smallest features (usually transistors) have 45-nm dimensions. It’s more complicated than that, so if you like, check out Jeff Hecht’s tutorial.

Sivakumar speculated that Intel would be hedging its bets for the 15-nm node (coming to a laptop near you in 2013, which is a lot closer than you think). Though Intel is on track for development and production of those chips using EUV lithography, they also have a side bet on “extreme double patterning,” which is a term I just made up. It’s double-patterning lithography, which Intel is already going to start using for the 32-nm chips it will ship this fall, but twice as much of it, or let’s call it quadruple patterning. That should slow down their wafer throughout (now at 150, and then divide that by four) sufficiently to motivate them to get EUV on the roadmap.

8. There’s more than one way to skin an EUV photon

Apparently there is a big difference between the light source that will produce the 13.5-nm photons necessary for lithography, and the light source that will produce 13.5-nm photons for inspecting the masks. The key is finding defects that would interfere with the patterns and make them useless, and researchers don’t know yet how big a defect has to be to get in the way, or how many of them will cause a problem. It’s still very much a work in progress.

The masks are multilayered, and every layer has to be perfect (all sorts of numbers for maximum defects per square centimeter populated the week’s presentations, and they were all incredibly low). The only way to probe down into the mask layer cake to check for those defects is with 13.5-nm photons.

My first thought was that a scanning electron microscope or an atomic force microscope could tackle that job, but no, says Debbie Gustafson, sales VP at Energetiq, a company that produces light sources. “AFM would be much too slow,” she says, “and even if it weren’t, both SEM and AFM only image the surface layer.”

And the light source has to be brighter than the EUV photons that imprint the pattern—900 kilowatts per square millimeter, according to one presenter from Ritsumiken University.

7. Tin vs. Xenon: This time it’s personal.
Such light is created not by exploding tin droplets with a carbon dioxide laser (the so called laser produced plasma, or LPP, that creates the images), but with Xenon gas and electrodes. An electrode releases an electrical discharge into a cloud of gas, which heats it, magnetically constrains it into a small space, and then EUV photons are released. This is called discharge produced plasma or DPP, and Energetiq uses it for mask inspection sources).

Chris Mack says tin will be the light source of the EUV generation. “So far the industry consensus is that the tin and carbon dioxide method will be the winner,” he says. But he’s talking about LPP, not DPP. Xenon arc lamps, which are used in today’s 193-nm lithography, have new life in the defect inspection field.

6. Litho nerds have dreams, too
Q: Why would you want your own laser if you work at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs?
A: Because just like astronomers who have to sign up to get time on the telescope, researchers working on EUV lithography have to sign up to get time on the synchrotron or whatever other crazy light source they have at the national labs. So, LBNL lead scientist Patrick Naulleau would have preferred to have his own light source.

NanoUV manufactures next-generation EUV light sources. The company claims that their source is as bright as a synchrotron but without the oppressive footprint of, say, the Large Hadron Collider. The instrument is 45 cm long and 14 cm wide and, utilizing a controversial “plasma lens technology,” according to NanoUV presenter Sergey Zakharov, is capable of producing 120 Watts. Naulleau got a little unhappy in the Q & A session. “How is this possible?” he asked, more than once.

But Zakharov skirted the answer and put Naulleau off, telling him to wait until February, when the tool will be revealed to the world.

Unfortunately, it was postulated by attendees who prefer to remain anonymous that the NanoUV light sources appear to transcend the laws of physics.

Eric B. Szarmes from the University of Hawaii’s department of physics and astronomy presented another cutting edge high-brightness lithography source base on Compton backscattering from electron pulses. If I had to bet on eyebrow-raising numbers, I’d bet on his, because he works with John Madey, who invented the free electron laser at Stanford in 1975.

5. Photoresist: Meet the new boss…
However, unlike the newfangled ways of generating photons, one surprising variable probably won’t create a headache. The photoresist that you can use to expose a wafer using 13.5-nm photons is the same chemical structure that worked for the 248-nm lithography of 16 years ago (they’ve been stuck at 193 nm since 2001).

4. I have to learn French!
Pop quiz time. Define “étendue:”

A.     A treacherous postmodernist ballet move that combines a plié with an accent aigu.
B.     What your French teacher used to yell across the room when you weren’t listening.
C.    A measure of attenuation of a beam of light.
D.     Area of the entrance pupil times the solid angle the source subtends as seen from the pupil. These definitions are for infinitesimally small "elements" of area and solid angle however, and have to be summed over both the source and the diaphragm.

I cycled through A, B, and C (C out loud unfortunately, and in the form of a question) before it was explained to me that étendue in fact is defined as D. The equation is the area times the divergence angle. The larger the beam the smaller the divergence. If EUV goes mainstream, you can expect to hear this word as often as I did last week, and you’ll be well-equipped with a definition. So, you’re welcome.

3. EUV Needs A Vacuum

Contamination is a big problem for EUV lithography tools. You have a machine inside which a pulsed laser explodes a series of falling 20- to 40-nanometer tin droplets, creating a super-hot plasma, and that plasma beams out EUV photons.

But that’s just the easy part. Now you have to get them to the mask over the wafer—but remember you have to do it without letting the EUV photons touch anything.  It’s like that game from the 1980s, Operation, where you had to pick up the creepy little plastic liver without touching the metallic sides of the patient’s “cavity.”

EUV photons, which are just on the boundary of where they should be called x-rays, are absorbed by absolutely everything; EUVs go in, but they don’t come out. The list of what is the death of an EUV photon includes: water molecules, air, glass, and metal. In other words, everything you’d expect to find in your average lithography machine.

In order to minimize that absorption, researchers have “child-proofed” their machines almost beyond all reason. Every step—from EUV generation to plasma to the beam concentrators to the beam collectors—takes place in a vacuum. And now, because you can’t use glass or plastic or saran wrap or any kind of barrier, you can’t separate the vacuum chambers. With pretty much any other light, you could just the beam through windows that separate one vacuum chamber from the next. Not with EUV. The area has to be completely open. Now you’re stuck making a huge, long, labyrinthine vacuum chamber in your litho tool.
And everything that interacts with the beam (steerers, light collectors, lenses, and so on) needs to be made of super reflective mirrors. These are based on Bragg reflection, a concept used for optical fibers. A Bragg reflector is created by coating a smooth substrate with several dozen alternating layers of molybdenum and silicon.

And it gets worse!

2. Contamination is bad

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign plasma physicist David Ruzic uses the very user-friendly term “splats” to describe the small balls of tin that pancake onto the equipment.

The ions and tin splats exploding out of the plasma have no travel restrictions. They can migrate everywhere and anywhere in your machine. The splats are no fun but you can clean them up, more or less, with RF coils and fancy lasers.

What’s harder to do is guard against the devastation rained on your super sensitive mirrors by the emitted ions from the plsma. These, according to one presentation, cut short the life of the average satellite-grade Bragg reflector mirror from 30,000 hours to, uh, 2 to 4. HOURS. You think double patterning is expensive. Wait till you’re asking ASML for a new litho tool six times a day (though I’m sure they would find some way to get through the pain…).

1. No technology is immune from the Star Wars metaphor!

Ruzic tells me the preferred method of dealing with line edge roughness–-which according to many attendees is the limiter for lithography-- is shooting a tiny laser (pew! pew! pew!) down the canyon walls of those tiny features to smooth out the rough spots. “It’s like that part where they’re shooting lasers down the canyons in the Death Star,” he explained, warming the nerdiest regions of my heart.

Stay on target!

Saving the Power-Loving Parrots of Brooklyn

The electric utility that serves Brooklyn, N.Y., has a little problem that's literally for the birds.

For the last few years, line workers for Con Edison of New York (Con Ed) have been struggling to clear the famous borough's utility poles of parrots. It seems that monk parrots (or parakeets), originally escaped from cargo crates at a city airport, have decided that nothing makes for a good nesting spot so much as a nice, warm perch over a transformer. The birds, which are native to South America, have adapted to the chilly climes of Brooklyn and nearby Queens so successfully that they are rapidly increasing in number. This has led to an upsurge in short-circuits along the power lines, causing a spate of local outages.

Electrical equipment needs ventilation for proper functioning, and the nests are smothering them, leading to failures and even fires, according to a recent story in The New York Times.

Con Ed has tried to evict the birds with everything from deterrent sprays to sound machines and even a plastic battery-powered owl that hoots, which proved to do the trick for the life of the battery. Still, the problem has been growing faster than the line workers can keep up.

Even the bird's most ardent defender admits that Con Ed is in a predicament: caught between legitimate safety concerns and its friendly public image. "I know there are people who think Con Edison is killing them, but I think they're pretty humane about removing the nests," Steve Baldwin, who operates a site devoted to the local parrots,, told the Times.

Baldwin told Spectrum Online that the problem in New York City is not an isolated one and that other utilities in the area have been less humane in their bird removal campaigns, bringing their public relations departments nothing but grief for their efforts.

"Some utilities have little or no compunction about resorting to lethal methods when dealing with animals causing a nuisance or economic impact on their operations," Baldwin noted. "For example, in Connecticut in 2005, the United Illuminating [UI] power company killed hundreds of wild parrots using the familiar rationale that there it was the only solution to the monk parakeet issue. Following widespread protests, both on the ground and through cyberspace, plus a court challenge, UI has since given up its extermination efforts. Con Ed, on the other hand, and PSE&G, a New Jersey-based utility company whose infrastructure includes areas where wild parrots reside in that state, have both adopted more moderate policies centering on humane methods, and in my view they are to be lauded for choosing more humane methods over those which are cruel."

We asked Baldwin what some of the more humane methods might be. He replied that "while none appear to be 100 percent effective when used alone, a combination of them would provide an effective spectrum of non-lethal deterrence modalities."

"A robotic predator figure [like the plastic owl] combined with the availability of nest platforms designed to provide housing away from energized electrical lines, would be an interesting combination to try. We have found that in New Jersey, some measure of success has been achieved by attaching bright orange rubber sleeves to poles where parrots have previously built nests. Elsewhere, Con Ed has used 'mobile-like' devices consisting of brightly reflective objects, which the parrots don't like."

It's another sign of our changing times: if parrots can adapt to new circumstances, then utilities can too.

Optimism for Nanotech Business is the NY Times Angle

Although the New York Times doesn’t devote much ink to the subject of nanotechnology, when they do they manage to cover it they put a pretty positive spin on the subject no matter how dire the circumstance. You might call it “putting a bow on it.”

In this example from the end of 2007 in which the Grey Lady seems to acknowledge that there is an uneasy feeling that we’ve somehow have been cheated by all the hype from about 2000 on, we get a promise that was all going to change real soon when all these start-up companies go public.

Of course, nanotechnology companies going public in the years 2008 and thus far in 2009 has been few and far between. Honestly, I don’t know of one, but if someone knows of any please let me know.

Unfazed by their rosy appraisal of nanotechnology 18 months ago failing to materialize, the NY Times have put their happy face on nanotech once again.

Of course, the paper of record again presents us with the difficult context from which nanotechnology is going to save the world. But nanotech is no longer suffering from unsupported hype, but this time the challenging obstacle is government budget cuts that promise to decimate nanotechnology epicenters like California.

The savior this time comes in the form of university and industry collaborative development agreements. The evolution from IPOs being the rescuer of nanotechnology back to basic university/industry partnerships seems more a regression than a progression. But considering the current state of the market, finding any silver lining to the storm clouds now circling nanotechnology seems welcomed.

Intel fellow gunshy about EUV future

EUV lithography is plagued with several problems, and these need to be solved before EUVL can be adopted by the chip manufacturing industry. This was made especially clear in Wednesday morning’s keynote speech by lithography scientist and Intel fellow Sam Sivakumar at the EUV Litho workshop in Honolulu, Hawaii. Sivakumar said that Intel is proceeding down the old ITRS roadmap in the traditional “new every two” fashion. Later this year they will release their first chips based on the 32-nm process technology, which puts them on track for 22-nm commercially available chips in 2011. Sivakumar was also quite frank about the 15-nm chips, which he says are slated for 2013. And yet despite that certainty, he would not be pinned down about what methods Intel would use to print these chips. Intel is hedging its bets: one “lighter” flavor of double patterning lithography creates the 32-nm chips. When it’s time to crank out 22-nm chips, Intel will be knee-deep in design rules. Sivakumar speculated that by the time the 15-nm process technology becomes a necessity it’s an even bet between EUV and continuing to torture the equipment and the engineers into resolving those infinitesimal line widths.

    That evidently suprised Chris Mack, because he got up at the end of the keynote and pressed Sivakumar on whether they were maybe even one percent more in favor of one of the technologies at this point. Sivakumar wouldn’t budge.

    On an unrelated note, I asked Mack: If someone had a gun to your head, and asked you to bet on the next-generation technologies: EUV lithography or E-beam Lithography (the increasingly attention-getting technology coming out the Netherlands), what would be your bet?

    “I’d bet on the gun,” said Mack.

Belgian Researchers Demonstrate Both Attractive and Repulsive Nanophotonic Forces

Joint research at the University of Ghent and the nanoelectronics research center IMEC have developed waveguides that when laser is passed through them generate both attracting and repulsing optical forces upon them.

According to the early announcement of the research, which eventually will be published in the August issue of Nature Nanotechnology, the demonstration of the repulsive force is a first and constitutes a matter of “fundamental scientific importance.”

The applications for this research will be in high-speed telecommunications where the technology could be an option for all-optical signal processing functions on a chip.

How a $150-million Nanotech Company Becomes a $3-million one within Two Years

The UK publication This is Money has an interesting account  of how Oxonica once the model of nanotech startup success has become a cautionary tale within a couple of years. Once trading at more than £100 million (US$161 million), the company is trading at just 3p, valuing the company at less than £2 million (U$3.2 million).

By this account and others I have read, the downfall of the company seems akin to Greek tragedy in that the company was brought down by its own hubris. Instead of just paying licensing fees to the inventor of a fuel additive that allowed diesel engines to run more efficiently and cut carbon emissions, once Oxonica looked poised to win a huge contract for the product they claimed that they had developed their own and didn't need to license the original formula.  

A couple of problems quickly developed, the contract more or less fell through when the Turkish fuel company Petrol Efisi that were testing the fuel additive balked when it didn't meet its stated performance levels. Doh. Then the inventor filed a lawsuit and won. When Oxonica appealed, the court again sided with the inventor again. Doh x 2. 

Now in the hope of making up for poor business decisions with endless legal wrangling the article outlines how the company has "set aside £394,000 to cover the royalties and it has earmarked a further £800,000 for possible legal costs. The total is already dangerously close to Oxonica's bank balance of £1.6m."


I believe in EUVL, I do I do!

This year’s International Workshop on Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography is at the Sheraton Waikiki, a hotel that overlooks about ten thousand miles of Pacific blue, in which child-sized sea turtles clumsily flap in late afternoon. Earlier today, conference organizer and EUV Litho, Inc. founder Vivek Bakshi caught up with me to remind me that attendees had been instructed to dress informally. I think you know what that’s code for in Hawaii (hint: five meters from the hotel, a store called “Crazy Shirts” makes money hand over fist). And indeed, several Hawaiian-beshirted gentlemen waved to us in flutters of floral reds and yellows and greens while they made their way into the obligatorily-named conference rooms: Kona, Lanai, Maui. Bakshi’s own sartorial decisions had put him about halfway there. He was wearing a Hawaiian shirt in name only. The pattern was recognizable, but muted by the gray, white and black that lent it an almost ironic patina.

One interesting thing about this workshop is the presence of lithography guru and gentleman scientist Chris Mack. Shouldn’t he be at Semicon West, the annual workshop of industry consortium Sematech, underway in Francisco this week, coincidentally overlapping exactly with the EUV Litho workshop?

As it turns out, there’s an interesting little bit of unofficial bad blood between Sematech and EUV Litho. Bakshi, a former Sematech lithography researcher, started EUV Litho, Inc., when Sematech folded their Austin, TX operations and relocated the staff to Albany, New York. Bakshi stayed in temperate Austin and started up his own company, which specializes in workshops just like Sematech does. Apparently the EUV Litho workshop is sort of unofficially boycotted by the folks at Sematech.

But the EUV Litho workshop has acquired the reputation of being more academically oriented where Sematech workshops tend to be focused more on industry vendors and speakers. And according to Mack, this workshop is more interesting. “This isn’t the usual ‘we’re on track, trust us’ talks that the tool vendors always give at similar Sematech meetings,” he says.

Bakshi agrees emphatically. “If anyone gives an industry presentation,” he says, “they are immediately sent out to the poster session.” Consequently, the EUV Litho workshop has developed a reputation for being more academic and R & D-oriented than industry-oriented.

But still, it’s weird to see Chris Mack here. This is a man who notoriously believes that EUV is dying on the vine and that within two years, no one will speak of it again. In fact, earlier this year Mack and Bakshi entered into a bet on the future of EUV lithography in which Mack put up his prized Lotus. Mack’s bet: “Number of submitted abstracts in the area of EUVL for 2011 SPIE Advanced Lithography conference will be zero.”

To hear Mack talk about the future of EUV lithography, you might think you were hearing about a failing political campaign. “A mentality sets in where people don’t want to hear criticisms,” Mack explains. “They think it might sap the momentum. If people doubt the technology, maybe they won’t put the resources into making it work. So the tendency is to gloss over problems.”

“You start to doubt if these talks are really truthful. That’s the bad side of these kinds of workshops. They’re not the really frank discussions of technology gaps that need to be dealt with.”

Or maybe EUV lithography is more like Tinkerbell in Peter Pan Robin Hood*. If you start stop believing in her, she dies.

Mack is not the only one with grave doubts about EUV. At SPIE this past March, IBM’s Bernie Meyerson, ever one to turn a colorful phrase, remarked that ASML’s Albany EUV alpha-demo tool “looks like you rolled an electromagnet through an automotive junkyard.”

Meyerson also said that “scaling is dead. Moore’s Law isn’t.” This led Mack to speculate that Meyerson was signposting that EUV would probably die in the water as more companies looked for alternatives to scaling to make their chips run better, faster and at lower power.

But Bakshi is confident that EUV lithography will prevail. “This is a multi-node technology,” he says. “It will take you to the end of Moore’s law, and there will be no need for any more expensive optical tricks.”

Semicon West
and EUV Litho are both dealing with three main issues that stand in the way of EUV lthography being as ubiquitous as 193-nm litho is today. Those issues are metrology, contamination, and bright light sources.

On Monday, light source manufacturer Cymer Inc. reported that that it has shipped a laser-plasma EUV lithography source that was capable of 75 Watts of exposure power.The company thinks it can achieve wafer production of 60 silicon wafers per hour, the minimum requirement for EUV lithography to be adopted industry-wide. Bakshi said "everyone is thriled something is shipping." But he would not comment on whether 75 Watts was a realistic number.

*Wow, that jet lag is really something, isn't it.  

EE Unemployment Doubles in U.S.

The unemployment rate in the United States for EEs rose to 8.6 percent in the second quarter of 2009, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A total of 29 000 EEs were unemployed in the second quarter, more than double the first-quarter’s 13 000.

In a press release, IEEE-USA, a U.S.-based unit of the IEEE devoted to career issues, noted that the previous quarterly record was 7 percent, in the first quarter of 2003. “These data suggest that engineers laid off last year and early this year are having trouble securing the new engineering jobs being created,” IEEE-USA president Gordon Day was quoted as saying.

The U.S. isn’t the only country in which engineers are feeling the pinch. In Germany, the “engineering and electrical sector has shed 124,000 jobs since December,” the Bloomberg news agency reported in June.

“German engineering orders, a key component in Europe's biggest economy, were almost half in May what they were a year ago, data from the sector federation VDMA showed on Wednesday,” reports Agence France-Presse. That comes after monthly drops of 49 percent (February), 35 percent (March), and 58 percent (April). The data were compiled by the German engineering association VDMA.

Nanoparticle-based Sunscreens Get Environmental Group's Seal of Approval

Andrew Maynard’s 20/20 Science blog picked up on the latest environmental, health and safety (EHS) news on nanotech in which the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which has hardly been a cheerleader for nanotechnology to date, released an approving evaluation of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles in sunscreens.

For the EWG to come back with an evaluation that more or less states using sunscreens with these nanoparticles is a whole lot better for your health than getting a sunburn  certainly was not going to be taken lying down by the NGOs who have sworn nanotechnology as their mortal enemy in order to fill up their day.

We get a bit of this in the comments to Maynard’s blog from a Friends of the Earth (FoE) representative in which every possible idea is presented to somehow discredit the EWG report.

Maynard, who always comes across as being bound to science more than ideology, treats the litany of complaints with kid gloves at once dispelling any reasons for not using these sunscreens and at the same time leaving room for hope that nanoparticles may still cause us harm. One wouldn’t want to discourage FoE in Australia from having something to complain about.

But this latest research has got to come as a blow to the NGOs who had stirred up so much concern (fear) about nanoparticles used in cosmetics. If this continues, they’ll be left with only food to carry on about.

The Capacity to Create More Capacity

We at Spectrum had just sent our July issue off to the printer in late June when the telecommunications research firm Telegeography issued a report “Trans-Atlantic bandwidth – the hangover lingers” that provides an ominous footnote to our article about submarine cable construction (”A Telecom Diet Rich in Fiber”) Telegeography forecasts trans-Atlantic demand to rise from 10 terabits per second today to about 60 Tb/s in 2015.

The first 30 or so terabits can be met by increased use of existing cables, it says, but the final 20 terabits will require new cables that may not get built:

Trans-Atlantic capacity will be exhausted by 2014, and cables providing diversity along geographically unique routes may run out of capacity even sooner. New capacity will clearly be needed; less clear is who will deploy this capacity, how they will deploy it, and how they will finance it.

Telegeography says that current wholesale rates “reflect only the incremental cost of the optical equipment needed to provision the circuit, but not the cost of cable construction.”

While 2014 is still five years off, lengthy cable financing and construction cycles mean that carriers must confront this challenge far sooner. New technologies, such as 40 Gb/s transmission line rates, may allow operators to expand capacity on some existing systems, delaying the need for new cables. However, these technologies remain unproven on a commercial long-haul submarine cable, and will only postpone the inevitable day of reckoning.

One thing there’s never a shortage of is predictions that telecommunications demand will exceed the industry’s capacity to create new capacity. As with Moore’s Law, whose terminus is endlessly predicted to be just a few years away, new telecommunications innovations have always interposed themselves to save the day. Logically, one day or another, the doomsdaysayers will be right. The question is, when will that day come?


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