SEMATECH and Carl Zeiss today announced their agreement to design and develop the industry’s first-ever actinic aerial image metrology system (AIMS™) for defect review of EUV photomasks.
The AIMS™ EUV platform represents a critical tool for the development and manufacturing of defect-free extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUVL) masks targeted at the 22 nm technology node and beyond. A first production-worthy version of the platform is scheduled for early 2014, in line with the expected introduction of EUV lithography into high-volume manufacturing by 2015.
In collaboration with SEMATECH’s EUVL Mask Infrastructure (EMI) consortium, Carl Zeiss will investigate a concept and feasibility plan for a tool that emulates the aerial image formed by a EUV lithography scanner supporting the 22 nm half-pitch (HP) node requirements with extendibility to the 16 nm HP node.
“Major industry transitions such as the introduction of EUV lithography require collaborative innovations that involve coordination across the supply chain,” said Dan Armbrust, president and CEO of SEMATECH. “This agreement represents a significant achievement for SEMATECH’s EMI consortium, and illustrates our continuing commitment to develop and deliver the infrastructure required for this critical next-generation technology.”
“The development of production-worthy metrology solutions is critical to accelerating EUVL and represents another significant step toward readiness for commercialization of EUV for high-volume-manufacturing,” said John Warlaumont, vice president of Advanced Technologies, SEMATECH. “Carl Zeiss has been a valued partner of SEMATECH for many years, given their leadership in providing state-of-the-art tool components and system solutions that are manufacturing friendly. We are very pleased to partner with Carl Zeiss on driving the development of a high-resolution EUV defect review tool that will collectively support the needs of the semiconductor industry and EUV stakeholders.”
After extensive industry analysis, some key infrastructure gaps for EUV are in the area of mask metrology. The EMI partnership is addressing these gaps by funding development of critical metrology tools, in three phases. The first phase will focus on enabling an enhanced EUV mask blank inspection capability by 2011, followed by development of an AIMS™ for EUV in 2014 in collaboration with Carl Zeiss, and finally an EUV mask pattern inspection tool able to work at 16 nm HP by 2015. After successful completion of the concept and feasibility study, SEMATECH and Carl Zeiss target to start the main development of the AIMS™ System under a separate agreement.
“The agreement with SEMATECH represents an important part of our company mission to enable the lithography roadmap through our leading AIMS™ technology. We have committed ourselves to an aggressive time schedule for the development of EUV AIMS™ technology in order to support the growing industry momentum for EUV lithography,” said Dr. Oliver Kienzle, managing director of Carl Zeiss SMT´s Semiconductor Metrology Systems (SMS) Division.
“SEMATECH’s EMI partnership provides the most suitable development foundation for Carl Zeiss to apply our longstanding metrology experience and unique EUV capabilities to develop new tools to enable EUV lithography for the industry,” added Wolfgang Harnisch, director New Business Development of SMS Division and Project Leader of the AIMS™ EUV project.
It will be very challenging for state-of-the-art 193 nm immersion lithography techniques to pattern chips beyond the 22 nm HP technology generation. EUVL, with a wavelength of only 13.5 nm, is widely considered the best next technology generation following deep ultraviolet lithography. The EUV masks used for sub-22 nm patterning must be free of defects to avoid transferring them onto chip circuits – but current metrology tools are generally ineffective at finding defects below 32 nm node requirements.
Since 2003, the semiconductor industry has ranked defect-free EUV masks among its top three technical issues, and SEMATECH has led technical programs to drive defect reduction. At the request of the industry, SEMATECH began pursuing a consortial solution for the required metrology infrastructure with a special workshop at SEMICON West in July 2009, continuing with working groups to develop proposals and efforts to sign up initial members. Going forward, SEMATECH will facilitate consensus building among the EMI partners, providing crucial data with insightful analysis and a discussion forum for reaching conclusive agreements.