What does this mean? The closer together these circuits can be cut, the more
features, in most cases transistors, that can be packed onto the same surface
area of a single chip. Modern processors are cramming two, four, and even eight
processing cores into the space of what a single core consumed just a few years
Part of the growing concern of the semiconductor industry is that further
shrinking the lithography process is becoming quite difficult. DailyTech
reported on various technologies that promise to take integrated circuits to
the next level, but thus far none are being utilized for various reasons.
Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have come up with a
technique that could advance
standard lithography processes, rather than reinventing them. Known as
scanning-beam interference lithography, the process currently allows them
create 25nm features separated by 25nm gaps – less than half the size of the
current 65nm process. Not only can SBIL create smaller features, it can do so
over a larger area than typical interference lithography, producing more cut
surface more quickly.
The entire process was built from the ground up by MIT graduate students and
members of the MIT Kavli Institute of Astrophysics and Space Research. Graduate
student Yong Zhao developed a new image reversal process while Chih-Hao Chang,
another graduate student, developed a high-precision phase detection algorithm.
Combined with electronically controlled 100 MHz sound waves, which control the
diffraction and frequency-shift of the etching laser, these MIT inventions
allow rapid and precise patterning over large surface areas.
The bar is not yet set on the low limit of what can be accomplished by standard
interference lithography. MIT's new invention could help advance the entire
industry due to its foundation in widely used lithography techniques. There is
still a long way to go before the IC industry needs to worry about building
quantum circuitry, and that road is paved by the ever-shrinking die and
multiplying core numbers.