Moore’s law, the principle that predicts the number of transistors in silicon circuits double every 18 months, have started to limp, partly due to the difficulties with current microlitography. ASML has now announced that microlitography using Extreme UV could be ready for production in 2015.
We have many times described the difficulties transistor manufacturing is suffering from today, even more so as they become smaller and smaller. Partly there is the factor of electron tunneling, or leakage. This is a phenomenon that can be controlled through e.g. FinFET, but also becomes a bigger problem when transistors shrink beneath 10 nanometer.
A more actual problem is the microlitography that is used during manufacturing. Simplified it is the technology that sculptures the transistors from silicon platters by treating them with a material sensitive to UV light and then treat them with light of the right wave length. But the problem with current microlitography is the wavelength being used, 193 nanometer, is simply not accurate enough for future applications.
When we reach 10 nanometer we will need a shorter wave length, called EUV or Extreme UV. Here the wave length is 13.5 nanometer, a substantial reduction from current technology. EUV has been in the talks since the 90s, but has been hard to master since light of such a narrow wave length is hard to produce through modern lenses.
High pressure on ASML
The leader in making microlitographic equipment, ASML, has announced that it may have production ready equipment for EUV for 2015. This could very well be the savior for the processor industry that is expected to below 10 nanometer shortly after.
There is still a lot of work to be done before the technology can go live since the prototypes that have been presented doesn’t reach up to the requirements for commercial processor manufacturing. It is therefore unclear if ASML will reach its goal of functional EUV microlitography with 250 – 1 000 watt effect in 2015, or for that matter what the consequences of a delay could have for the processor manufacturing for companies like Intel.