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IBM: EUV lithography not ready until 7nm node

Posted: 08 Feb 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:EUV? lithography? FDSOI?

Globalfoundries and Samsung are racing to get their first 14nm production wafers out before the end of the year, aiming to beat rival TSMC by as much as a year. Meanwhile, an IBM executive has warned that EUV lithography won't be ready until the 7nm node.

"We're in the most complex business in the history of human kind," said Mike Noonen, vice president and marketing at sales at Globalfoundries.

Mike Cadigan, head of IBM's semiconductor group, told New York state officials he needed before the end of 2012 a new building to house the latest EUV prototype tool. Now the building is complete, but the tool may not arrive until April or later.

"The industry voted [with investments in 2012] that we need to make this work, but there continues to be a lot of unknowns," Cadigan told press. "You can continue to view EUV as next to impossible, but the industry needs it," he said.

Developers improved the strength of EUV's laser light tenfold to 30W, but they still need to improve it another tenfold to 250W before it is ready, said Gary Patton, a chief technologist in IBM's chip group.

In addition, engineers need to eliminate problems in resists, mask defects and inspection processes. Patton compared that to searching for golf balls in an area as large as one tenth of the state of California.

"You actually drop molten tin at 150 mph, zap it with a laser, blast it with a CO2 laser to generate plasma, eliminate the debris from that, collect the light, purify and then bounce it back and forth off six mirrors," he said. "These are real physics problems we have to solve," he added.

Patton described several advances in double patterning that aim to at least reduce the need for triple or quad patterning with today's immersion lithography at 14 and 10 nm nodes. Those tools could also be used at the 7-nm node if needed, he said.

Cadigan and Noonen suggested the fully depleted silicon-on-insulator (FDSOI) technology promoted by STMicroelectronics could form another alternative. (See ARM thumbs up for ST's FDSOI process.) Globalfoundries aims to have volume production of FD-SOI before June 2014, Noonen said.

EUV also gates the move to 450 mm wafers, now expected about 2020, said IBM's Cadigan. "With immersion you are challenged on the return on investment in 450 mm," he said.

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