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University of Queensland to help develop new photoresists

08 June, 2006

SEMATECH and the University of Queensland (Brisbane, Australia) will collaborate in a project that aims to develop new resists for 193 nm immersion lithography, an emerging technology for advanced semiconductor manufacturing.

Technologists from SEMATECH and the university will identify and qualify novel, high-refractive-index polymers for 193 nm photoresists in an effort to extend immersion lithography for multiple technology generations. This project is a key component of a broader SEMATECH program to extend immersion through novel high refractive index materials in three categories: resist, immersion fluids and lens materials.

Immersion lithography combines the familiar 193 nm light wavelength with a refracting fluid such as water to define patterns as narrow as 45 nm in advanced microchips. Increasing the refractive index of photoresists, along with the immersion fluid and lens material, offers the possibility of extending immersion lithography to patterns as narrow as 32 nm.

Also, increasing just the refractive index of photoresists offers the possibility to improve the process latitude of patterned features on a semiconductor wafer, thereby extending the capability of a given lithography toolset.

A two-year grant for $510,000 Australian dollars from the Australian Research Council (ARC) will be matched by SEMATECH with cash and in-kind contributions, including access to advanced immersion lithography exposure tools through SEMATECH's Immersion Technology Center, as well as project management and logistical resources. The ARC is a government agency that funds research that can bring economic, social and cultural benefits to the country.

"One of our basic objectives at SEMATECH is to maximise the world's R&D resources through leverage and creative partnerships," said Michael R. Polcari, SEMATECH president and CEO. "This agreement with ARC certainly exemplifies that aim, and allows us to share expertise with a region that is seeking to become a world leader in microelectronics."

SEMATECH's role in the project was defined by Will Conley, a Freescale assignee. "The research of high-index polymers will provide the industry with an additional avenue for the extension of optical lithography," Conley said. "The partnership between SEMATECH and the University of Queensland already has yielded many interesting material platforms, and this grant from the ARC will permit the further research needed."

Professor Andrew Whittaker, director for the Centre for Magnetic Resonance of the University of Queensland, said: "The support of SEMATECH on this project enables the university to assemble a world-class team dedicated to synthesis of novel resist polymers. From our perspective, the agreement with the ARC and SEMATECH allows us to contribute to an exciting technology of great international importance.

"From the point of view of the Australian economy, the funding provides employment for talented young scientists, and provides a platform for continued research within Australia in the field of photolithography."

The Australian grant for the project was described as one of the largest awarded by the ARC in recent rounds of funding. "The materials to be developed are expected to provide the basis of future generations of microchips," according to a project summary that accompanied the grant. "A major outcome of this project will be establishment of Australia as a world leader in this rapidly expanding field."

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