The new-generation extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography machines of Asmer, the Netherlands, was the size of a bus and cost 150 million U.S. dollars. Its unprecedented precision allows the size of components on the chip to continue to shrink in the next few years.
In a large clean room located in the suburbs of Connecticut, the engineers have begun to manufacture key components for an Asim EUV Lithography Machine that is expected to allow the chip manufacturing industry to follow Moore’s Law for at least another 10 years.
This extreme ultraviolet lithography machine is manufactured by Asimer, the Netherlands. ASM launched the world’s first mass-produced extreme ultraviolet lithography machine in 2017. It plays a vital role in the field of chip manufacturing. It has been used to manufacture the most advanced iPhone chips and artificial intelligence processors. chip. ASM is manufacturing some components of the next-generation extreme ultraviolet lithography machine in Wilton, Connecticut. It uses new technology to minimize ultraviolet wavelengths, thereby reducing the size of the manufactured chip components as much as possible, and ultimately improving the performance of the entire chip.
The new generation of extreme ultraviolet lithography machine is about the size of a bus and costs 150 million US dollars. The entire machine contains 100,000 parts and 2 kilometers of cables. Each machine requires 40 containers, 3 cargo planes or 20 trucks. Only a few companies such as TSMC, Samsung, and Intel can afford such machines.
“This is really an incredible machine,” said Jesús del Alamo, a professor at MIT who studies new transistor architectures. “This is definitely a revolutionary product and a breakthrough that will bring new life to the chip industry.”
In a factory in Connecticut, engineers carved a huge piece of aluminum into a frame, and finally moved the mask with nanometer precision to reflect the extreme ultraviolet beam. These light beams are reflected back and forth by several mirrors, repeatedly modified and polished with amazing precision, and feature patterns that are only dozens of atoms in size are etched on the silicon wafer.
The finished components will be shipped to Widhoven in the Netherlands at the end of 2021, and then installed in the first prototype of a new generation of extreme ultraviolet lithography machine in early 2022. Intel may use this new machine to make the first batch of chips . Intel said it expects to roll off the first batch of chips in 2023. With the size of the pattern etched by any machine smaller than that of any machine in the past, so that each chip has tens of billions of components, the chips produced by this machine in the next few years should be the fastest and most efficient in history.
In short, ASM’s new generation of extreme ultraviolet lithography machine is expected to continue the concept of continuous progress in chip manufacturing and the entire technology industry, and continue to keep Moore’s Law alive.
In 1965, Gordon Moore, an electronic engineer and co-founder of Intel, published an article in the 35th anniversary special issue of the trade magazine “Electronics.” Moore pointed out in the article that the number of components on a single silicon chip roughly doubles every year, and he expects this trend to continue.
Ten years later, Moore changed his forecast from one year to two years. In recent years, although continuous breakthroughs in manufacturing technology and continuous innovation in chip design have maintained this momentum, the development of Moore’s Law is still being questioned.
Extreme ultraviolet lithography machines use special engineering techniques to shrink the wavelength of light used to make chips, which should help continue the trend of Moore’s Law. This kind of lithography technology is essential for the manufacture of more advanced smartphones and cloud computing machines, as well as the development of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and robotics. “The demise of Moore’s Law is overblown,” Jesús del Alamo said. “I think this will continue for a long time.”
Will Hunt, a research analyst who studies chip manufacturing at Georgetown University, said: “Without Asmer’s machines, it is impossible to make advanced chips.” “Many things have to be adjusted year after year. And experimentation, and these are very difficult.”
He said that every part of the extreme ultraviolet lithography machine is “extremely complex and surprisingly complex.”
Manufacturing chips usually requires some of the most advanced engineering techniques in the world. The chip is initially a cylindrical silicon crystal, which is first sliced into thin slices, and then the slices are coated with a layer of photosensitive material and are repeatedly exposed to light beams that have been patterned. The parts of the silicon that are not exposed to light are etched away by chemical reactions, drawing out the intricate details of the chip components. Then each wafer is sliced into many individual chips.
At present, continuously shrinking the size of chip components is still the most reliable way to squeeze more computing power from a silicon chip, because the more electronic components packaged on the chip, the higher the computing power.
Many innovations in chip architecture and component design have also allowed Moore’s Law to continue. For example, in May of this year, IBM demonstrated a new type of transistor, which is clamped inside the silicon wafer like a ribbon, which can encapsulate more components into the chip without reducing the resolution of photolithography.
However, since the 1960s, effectively shortening the wavelength of the light beam used to manufacture chips has helped to promote the miniaturization of chip components, which is critical to the improvement of chip performance. First, machines that used visible light were replaced by machines that used near ultraviolet light, and near-ultraviolet machines gave way to systems that used deep ultraviolet light to etch smaller pattern features on silicon wafers.
In the 1990s, Intel, Motorola, AMD and other companies began to collaborate on extreme ultraviolet as a new generation of lithography technology. Asimer joined in 1999 and worked hard to develop the first extreme ultraviolet lithography machine. Compared with the previous deep ultraviolet lithography technology (193 nanometers), the beam wavelength of extreme ultraviolet lithography technology is shorter, only 13.5 nanometers.
But it took decades for humans to solve engineering challenges. How to generate extreme ultraviolet light is a big problem in itself. Asme’s method is to bombard tin droplets with a high-power laser at a speed of 50,000 times per second to produce extreme ultraviolet light with sufficiently high intensity. Ordinary lenses also absorb extreme ultraviolet light, so extreme ultraviolet lithography machines use precise mirrors coated with special materials instead. Inside the ASM EUV lithography machine, EUV light is reflected by several mirrors before passing through the photomask, and the photomask is moved with nanometer precision in order to align the different layers on the silicon wafer.
“To be honest, no one really wants to use extreme ultraviolet light,” said David Kanter, a chip analyst at industry research company Real World Technologies. “It’s 20 years behind the original plan and 10 times the budget. But if you want to make a very dense structure, it’s your only tool.”
Asim’s new generation extreme ultraviolet lithography machine uses a larger numerical aperture to further reduce the size of the components on the chip. This method allows light to pass through the mask at different angles, thereby increasing the resolution of pattern imaging. This requires larger mirrors and new hardware and software to precisely control component etching. Asim’s current generation extreme ultraviolet lithography machine can produce chips with a resolution of 13 nanometers. The new generation of extreme ultraviolet lithography machines will use higher numerical apertures to produce 8 nanometer-sized feature patterns.
At present, TSMC uses extreme ultraviolet lithography in the chip manufacturing process. Its customers include Apple, Nvidia, and Intel. Intel has made slow progress in adopting extreme ultraviolet lithography technology and has lagged behind its competitors, so it recently decided to outsource part of its production to TSMC.
Asmak doesn’t seem to think its lithography opportunities are lagging behind.
“I don’t like to talk about the end of Moore’s Law, I like to talk about the illusion of Moore’s Law,” said Martin van den Brink, chief technology officer of Asmer.
Van den Brink pointed out that the article Moore published in 1965 actually focused more on the innovation process than just the shrinking of chip component sizes. Although Van den Brink predicts that high numerical aperture extreme ultraviolet lithography technology will continue to promote the progress of the chip industry for at least the next 10 years, he believes that the use of lithography technology to reduce the size of chip components will become less important.
Van den Brink said that ASM has begun to study the successor technology of extreme ultraviolet lithography, including electron beam and nanoimprint lithography, but it has not yet found any technology to be reliable enough to be worth investing in a lot of money. He predicted that, while considering thermal stability and physical interference, speeding up the production of lithography machines will help increase chip production. Even if the chip speed has not become faster, this method will make the most advanced chip cheaper and more popular.
Van den Brink added that manufacturing techniques that include vertical manufacturing of components on the chip should continue to improve chip performance. Intel and other companies have already begun to do this. Liu Deyin, executive chairman of TSMC, once said that the overall performance and efficiency of chips will increase three times each year in the next 20 years.
The main challenge is that the world’s demand for faster chips is unlikely to decline. Purdue University professor Mark Lundstrom (Mark Lundstrom) started working in the chip industry as early as the 1970s. He wrote an article for Science magazine in 2003, predicting that Moore’s Law will be reached within 10 years. Physical limits. He said: “In my career, we have thought many times,’ Well, this is over.'” “But in the next 10 years, there is no danger of slowing down. We are just trying to find another way.”
Lundstrom still remembers that he first attended the Microchip Conference in 1975. “There was a guy named Gordon Moore who was giving a speech,” he recalled. “He is well-known in the tech community, but no one else knows him.”
“I still remember his speech,” Lundstrom added. “Moore said,’We will soon be able to install 10,000 transistors on a chip.’ He also said,’When there are 10,000 transistors on a chip, what can people not do?