ERC's Newly Engineered Microscope System Has an Impact on Integrated-Circuit Industry

Achievement date: 
2014
Outcome/accomplishment: 

Researchers affiliated with the Center for Extreme Ultraviolet Science and Technology (ERC EUV), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center headquartered at Colorado State University, developed an EUV-mask microscope for the integrated-circuit (IC) lithography process.

Impact/benefits: 

The newly developed mask microscope is affecting current and future generations of IC-related products. Masks are a critical component in the manufacturing process used to produce complex microprocessors, the heart of electronic devices ranging from smart-phones to high-end computers. The new mask gives EUV lithography researchers a window on several generations of future mask technology.

Explanation/Background: 

The SEMATECH High-Numerical-Aperture (NA) Actinic Reticle-review Project (SHARP) represents a significant advance over its predecessor, the SEMATECH Berkeley Actinic Inspection Tool (AIT), which was decommissioned in September 2012. In its first week of operation SHARP demonstrated approximately 150 times higher light throughput than AIT and excellent spatial resolution. SHARP has hundreds of selectable high-resolution zone-plate lenses (a zone plate is a device that can focus light or other things exhibiting wave character) and computer-controlled coherence, making it extremely flexible.