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Imec and ASML establish joint lab to advance EUV lithography

Belgian research institute Imec and lithographic system manufacturer ASML have announced the joint establishment of a research lab to advance EUV lithography technology and advance semiconductor scaling towards the post-3nm logic node.

The two entities will also use the new facility to analyse and solve technical challenges such as defects, reliability and yield to accelerate the industrialisation of EUV lithography for high-volume production.         

The new lab will see researchers from both organisations experiment with EUV lithography at higher numerical aperture (NA) in the manufacturing of advanced nanoscale devices. Systems with a higher NA project EUV light onto the wafer under larger angles, improving resolution and enabling the printing of smaller features and smaller nanoscale devices. ASML’s new high-NA EUV system, EXE:5000, with an NA of 0.55, will therefore be installed in the lab to facilitate the research.

A cleanroom within the new lab will also be equipped with ASML’s newest and most advanced high-volume production dedicated EUV scanner, the NXE:3400B, with an NA of 0.33, a 250W light source, and a throughput of more than 125 wafers per hour. The system at the new lab will also be equipped with the latest alignment and levelling sensors to enable optimal process control at this high throughput, and facilitate the overlay matching of the system to that of the latest immersion scanner, the NXT:2000i, which will also be installed in the cleanroom next year.

ASML and Imec will also expand the capability of the new ASML YieldStar optical metrology and ASML-HMI multi-electron beam metrology equipment, enabling more accurate and faster evaluation of nanoscale structures.

In 2014, the two organisations created a joint research centre, the Advanced Patterning Center, to optimise lithography technology for advanced CMOS integration and to prepare the ecosystem to support advance patterning requirements.

‘ASML and Imec have a nearly 30-year long tradition of joint research, leading to breakthrough patterning research to advance the semiconductor industry roadmap,’ remarked Luc Van den hove, president and CEO of Imec. ‘The new EUV scanners and ASML metrology equipment will allow our industry partners to perform collaborative research on the most advanced and industry relevant lithography and metrology equipment.’

Martin van den Brink, president and CTO at ASML added: ‘We are very pleased to take this next step in our long and deep collaboration with Imec. Access to the most advanced semiconductor lithography tools is vital for exploration and determining the paths to future generations of semiconductor devices and applications. Imec’s researchers and customers can be sure of the most up to date holistic lithography technology for many years to come. The semiconductor industry and consumers and businesses around the world will benefit from the fruits of Imec’s work over the next decade, resulting in continuing improvements in microchip cost and performance.’

ASML has also been working with laser manufacturer Trumpf, to develop EUV lithography systems at 13.5nm using CO2 laser technology. These systems will be used in making the next generation of high-speed computer processors, which will be crucial for addressing the high signal and data processing demands of the autonomous vehicles and mobile devices of the future.

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