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EUV's Underdog Light Source Will Have Its Day

Discharge-produced plasma might beat its laser-based competitors

3 min read
EUV's Underdog Light Source Will Have Its Day


Photo: ASML Holding
EUV Endgame: ASML's NXE3100 weighs in at 50 metric tons, contains more than a million parts, and will set you back a cool €60 million. It is set to start printing chips soon.

Extreme ultraviolet lithography, the key process in making the finely featured chips of the coming decade, has had a long list of detractors, but its time seems to be at hand. The proof? ASML Holding, the Dutch company that makes most of the world's chip lithography tools, has sold six of its monstrous EUVL machines to six separate customers, including foundry behemoth Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. These chipmakers will use ASML's NXE3100 to print the tiniest features of the most critical layers on their future chips.

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Two Startups Are Bringing Fiber to the Processor

Avicena’s blue microLEDs are the dark horse in a race with Ayar Labs’ laser-based system

5 min read
Diffuse blue light shines from a patterned surface through a ring. A blue cable leads away from it.

Avicena’s microLED chiplets could one day link all the CPUs in a computer cluster together.


If a CPU in Seoul sends a byte of data to a processor in Prague, the information covers most of the distance as light, zipping along with no resistance. But put both those processors on the same motherboard, and they’ll need to communicate over energy-sapping copper, which slow the communication speeds possible within computers. Two Silicon Valley startups, Avicena and Ayar Labs, are doing something about that longstanding limit. If they succeed in their attempts to finally bring optical fiber all the way to the processor, it might not just accelerate computing—it might also remake it.

Both companies are developing fiber-connected chiplets, small chips meant to share a high-bandwidth connection with CPUs and other data-hungry silicon in a shared package. They are each ramping up production in 2023, though it may be a couple of years before we see a computer on the market with either product.

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