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A New Light Source for EUV Lithography

Extreme ultraviolet laser offers a new route to next-gen chips

3 min read

A new type of X-ray laser could give hope to the semi­conductor industry as it struggles to continue its march toward ­miniaturization. This next-generation chip-­making tool was ­developed at the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Research Center for Extreme Ultraviolet Science and Technology, located at Colorado State University, in Fort Collins.

The laser operates at wavelengths of 18.9 and 13.9 nano­meters, the latter fine enough for extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography, which will be needed to manufacture the generation of chips that are to become available around 2011. The Colorado team found a way to take a small ”seed” of EUV light, also called soft Xâ''rays, and amplify the seed to produce a beam 400 times as intense. Finding a suitable light source for EUV lithography machines has proved much more difficult than expected, and though the Colorado laser is not yet powerful enough to replace the light sources already in development, its tabletop size and optical quality could ­accelerate the development of EUV components and materials.

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3D-Stacked CMOS Takes Moore’s Law to New Heights

When transistors can’t get any smaller, the only direction is up

10 min read
An image of stacked squares with yellow flat bars through them.
Emily Cooper

Perhaps the most far-reaching technological achievement over the last 50 years has been the steady march toward ever smaller transistors, fitting them more tightly together, and reducing their power consumption. And yet, ever since the two of us started our careers at Intel more than 20 years ago, we’ve been hearing the alarms that the descent into the infinitesimal was about to end. Yet year after year, brilliant new innovations continue to propel the semiconductor industry further.

Along this journey, we engineers had to change the transistor’s architecture as we continued to scale down area and power consumption while boosting performance. The “planar” transistor designs that took us through the last half of the 20th century gave way to 3D fin-shaped devices by the first half of the 2010s. Now, these too have an end date in sight, with a new gate-all-around (GAA) structure rolling into production soon. But we have to look even further ahead because our ability to scale down even this new transistor architecture, which we call RibbonFET, has its limits.

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