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How EUVL Chipmaking Works

        Tech | CPU

Moore's Law
An engineer inspects a wafer freshly printed from the prototype machine using EUVL.
An engineer inspects a wafer freshly printed from the prototype machine using EUVL.
Photo courtesy Sandia National Laboratories

Each year, manufacturers bring out the next great computer chip that boosts computing power and allows our personal computers to do more than we imagined just a decade ago. Intel founder Gordon Moore predicted this technology phenomenon more than 35 years ago, when he said that the number of transistors on a microprocessor would double every 18 months. This became known as Moore's Law.

Industry experts believe that deep-ultraviolet lithography will reach its limits around 2004 and 2005, which means that Moore's law would also come to an end without a new chipmaking technology. But once deep-ultraviolet hits its ceiling, we will see chipmakers move to a new lithography process that will enable them to produce the industry's first 10-gigahertz (GHz) microprocessor by 2007. By comparison, the fastest Intel Pentium 4 processor (as of May 2001) is 2.4 GHz. EUVL could add another 10 years to Moore's Law.

"EUV lithography allows us to make chips with feature sizes that are small enough to support 10 GHz clock speed. It doesn't necessarily make it happen," Don Sweeney, EUV Lithography program manager at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), said. "The first thing we need to do is to make integrated circuits down to 30 nanometers, and EUV lithography will clearly do that." By comparison, the smallest circuit that can be created by deep-ultraviolet lithography is 100 nanometers.

In April 2001, the EUV Limited Liability Company (EUV LLC) unveiled the first full-scale prototype EUV lithography machine. The EUV LLC is a consortium comprised of some of the world's leading chipmakers and three U.S. Department of Energy research labs. Members include Intel, AMD, IBM, Micron, Infeneon and Motorola. These companies are working with the Virtual National Laboratory, made up of Sandia National Laboratories, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The advantage of being a member of this consortium is having first priority to use this new technology.

Now let's see how EUVL works.