Fiber Lasers for Extreme Photons

A solid-state laser used mainly for industrial purposes could boost lagging extreme ultraviolet lithography sources

4 min read

29 July 2009—The light sources powering the next-generation chipmaking technique, extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUVL), are too dim, according to industry experts. And that’s one of the main reasons why semiconductor manufacturers worry that the technology will not be ready to produce advanced chips a few years from now. But Almantas Galvanauskas, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, believes he has a way to boost their power by using a type of industrial laser called a fiber laser. He presented his research two weeks ago at the International Workshop on Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography, in Honolulu.

Galvanauskas’s innovation is to replace the bulky, power-hungry chemical lasers used today with more efficient lasers based on special optical fibers. If Galvanauskas can make his method work—and it looks promising, according to Vivek Bakshi, formerly with semiconductor manufacturing research consortium Sematech, and Sam Sivakumar, a fellow at Intel—one of the three remaining problems preventing EUVL’s move into manufacturing will have been solved.

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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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