Imec to install analytical lab to probe lithography down to 8nm pitch


Imec (Leuven, Belgium), a leading research and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies, and KMLabs (Boulder, Colorado), pioneers and world leaders in ultrafast laser and EUV technology, announce a joint development to create a real-time functional imaging and interference lithography laboratory. This lab will enable imaging in resist on 300mm wafers down to an unprecedented 8nm pitch. Additionally, it will enable time-resolved nanoscale characterisation of complex materials and processes, such as photoresist radiation chemistry, two-dimensional materials, nanostructured systems and devices, emergent quantum materials. 

These capabilities expand upon imec’s post process analysis capability and will allow the characterisation of the molecular and quantum dynamics of materials within the attosecond to picosecond (10-18 s to 10-12 s) time regime, as well as to image lithographic feature sizes that far exceed the technology roadmap. 

The ability to pattern ever-smaller feature sizes and denser pitches is significantly challenged due to a lack of fundamental understanding of EUV sub-picosecond exposure processes. The first industrial laboratory to do so, imec’s attolab will enable the study of EUV photon absorption and subsequent ionisation processes at unprecedented timescales from attoseconds to picoseconds. It is anticipated that the gain in fundamental understanding of material characteristics pave the way for the development of new lithographic materials and underlayers.

Because of the coherence of KMLabs’ high-flux source, imec’s attolab will also enable interference imaging to emulate high numerical aperture (NA) imaging at 13.5nm. By combining the interference emulation of the 0.55NA of ASML’s most advanced tool in development with the current HVM-relevant EUV scanner (NXE:3400B) in imec’s cleanroom, imec and its partners will be able to explore the fundamental dynamics of photoresist imaging before the 0.55NA tools become available. The 300mm interference lithography (IL) capability will allow them to study advanced patterning films and processes using state-of-the art metrology tools, and will continue to be used to extend the knowledge of resist physics and chemistries to the very limits of material science. 

While initially setting out to aid the development of next-generation EUV lithography tools, many other research areas will benefit from such a state-of-the-art facility. Beyond molecular dynamics and ionisation processes of imaging materials, this lab will also provide the ability to do attosecond time-resolved electron spectroscopy and imaging of materials in an industrial setting. This is essential to accelerate the development of tomorrow’s logic, memory, and quantum devices, and of next-generation metrology and inspection techniques.

The new laboratory will be equipped with multiple KMLabs EUV beamlines, providing the platform for a jointly developed series of EUV end stations.

“Bringing this high-NA exposure and attosecond analytic capability to imec’s 300mm cleanroom will enable unprecedented fundamental learning, significantly speed up cycles of learning, and positively impact the semiconductor technology roadmap in many critical domains,” said Greg McIntyre, director of advanced patterning at imec. 

 Stochastic defectivity, resist photochemistry, and novel electronic materials development are all critical to the next generation of semiconductor enablement.  KMLabs is proud to work with imec on system development, advanced metrology, and solutions in these areas,” added Dr Kevin Fahey, CEO KMLabs.

Caption: imec further expands its analytic capabilities (photo: imec)

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