"Superchips" Partnership Teams Intel and Three National Labs

September 19, 1997

By Jon Bashor, [email protected]

Scientists from Berkeley Lab will add their expertise in the field of precision optics to a historic partnership announced last week to develop the technology for manufacturing future generations of faster, more powerful computer chips.

Members of Berkeley Lab's Center for X-ray Optics will join with scientists at Lawrence Livermore and Sandia national laboratories in a partnership with a semiconductor electronics industry consortium led by Intel Corp., the world's largest manufacturer of computer chips. The partnership will pursue the use of extreme ultraviolet light to create chips with features as small as 0.1 microns and smaller. By way of comparison, a human hair is about 80 microns wide.

The resulting "superchips" would allow microprocessors to become 100 times more powerful and memory chips to store 1,000 times more information than currently is possible.

From left, Lawrence Livermore National Lab Director Bruce Tarter, Secretary of Energy Federico Peña, Intel cofounder Gordon Moore, Berkeley Lab Director Charles Shank, and Sandia Deputy Drector John Crawford examine a 5X lithography tool. Photo courtesy of Sandia Labs

By creating chips with smaller and smaller features-- the semiconductor industry will introduce chips this year with 0.25 micron features--computer manufacturers will be able to pack more computing capacity into a given chip.

Secretary of Energy Federico Peña, participating in a news conference in San Jose to announce a kick-off three-year, $250 million contract, said the new technology will permit entire libraries of books to be stored on a single chip. Computers may be able to conduct intelligent "conversations," in any language, through voice recognition and response, he said.

Joining Peña in the announcement were Chairman Emeritus Gordon Moore of Intel; Advanced Micro Devices Chairman Jerry Sanders; Joe Mogab of Motorola; Tinsley Optics President Bob Aronno; laboratory directors Charles V. Shank (Berkeley), Bruce Tarter (Livermore), and Deputy Director John Crawford (Sandia); and several representatives of computer manufacturing and design agencies.

Peña said the partnership, the largest Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) in DOE history, "is the strongest possible endorsement of the scientific and technical capabilities found at the Department of Energy's national laboratories."

The three laboratories will form a "virtual national laboratory" with the Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography Limited Liability Company (EUV LLC), headed by Intel, Motorola, and Advanced Micro Devices. The goal is to have a commercially proven manufacturing technology for a new generation of computer chip in place by the early 21st century.

In order to produce such chips, manufacturers must be able to purchase manufacturing equipment with very precise optics capable of transferring the intricate patterns onto the chip material. That's where Berkeley Lab comes in. The Lab will receive about 10 percent of the total research funding.

Extreme ultraviolet light (EUV) and soft X-rays, the type used by CXRO at Berkeley Lab's Advanced Light Source, are next to each other in the spectrum. Because of their short wavelengths, the two kinds of light are well suited for work in the area of microscopy (the smaller the wavelength, the smaller the feature that you can see) and lithography (the smaller the wavelength, the smaller feature than can be etched by the light). And because they are very similar, Berkeley Lab's decade of expertise in this largely untapped field will make it a key member of the virtual lab partnership.

Under the CRADA, Sandia California will provide the EUV light source and the recording material, and be responsible for integrating the system. Lawrence Livermore will provide the critical optics and coatings for the lenses, as well as the "mask blanks" for making patterns on chips.

Berkeley Lab will provide the EUV measurements to determine the accuracy of the optics and optical coatings as they are developed, said Dave Attwood, head of Berkeley's Center for X-ray Optics. Jeffrey Bokor is the team leader for EUV interferometry, and Jim Underwood is the team leader for EUV reflectometry and scattering measurements.

Underwood's group will be studying the performance of the multi-layer coatings on the mirrors used in the manufacturing process, with the goal of improved optical throughput and coating uniformity. Underwood said his work will be done on Beamline 6.3.2 at the ALS.

"We have a wealth of experience in this field, which we've been pushing for 10 years," said Attwood. "For this project, we need to make measurements at wavelengths at which the optics are actually being used.

"Our measurements will focus on how the optical wavefront is distorted as it reflects from the new optics, then provide information as to how the components can be improved to further reduce the distortion," Attwood said. "Such fine detail is essential to the consortium's success, and demonstrates how each lab is playing an integral role in the success of this project." He noted that Hector Medecki in CXRO holds the patent on the interferometer for making these measurements.

One of the difficulties in using this kind of light, Attwood says, is that all materials absorb at these wavelengths, thereby providing an unusual challenge in making compatible mirrors and lenses. On the other hand, EUV is also a very powerful tool for chemistry and materials science, especially at the atomic and molecular level.

"Optics at these very short wavelengths present their own challenges and the field was in a very crude state when we began our work at Berkeley in the early 1980s," Attwood said. "With the progress made here, at our partner labs and in centers around the world, we've made substantial advances in the past decade. Our goals for the next few years would have been unthinkable 10 years ago."

Under the agreement, optical components developed at Livermore will be brought to the ALS for testing and measurement. Those EUV measurements will be critical to understanding and maximizing the coatings and measuring the properties of the optics once they have been coated, Attwood said.

Bokor's group is adapting optical testing methods for use at the ALS. Typically, lasers are used for testing lithography optics, but there is no laser available to test at the EUV wavelength. "Inventing a new method to use the properties of the ALS is where the innovation is," Bokor said.

"We're looking for perfection at a very high level, because the image has to be superbly crisp," he said. "In order for it to be crisp, the optics have to be free of any errors. Our job is to test the optics at the operating wavelength and put the final stamp of approval on the optics before they are put into the manufacturing systems."

While still in the development stages, Attwood said the relationship among the three labs is working "miraculously well, and they are virtually working as a cohesive research organization."

The EUV lithography approach is just one of three being explored worldwide. Intel's Moore emphasized that the other processes--one using shadow-casting techniques with shorter-wavelength x-rays, another using electron beam direct writing--will continue to be assessed in the race to build a smaller, faster chip.

Search | Home | Questions