Researchers are adapting a new plasma-based lithography that generates "extreme ultraviolet" light with a wavelength of 13.5 nanometers using the same methods applied in fusion-energy research. That's another challenge for future power management of chips.
Current photolithography technology uses ultraviolet light, which involves projecting the image of a mask onto a light-sensitive material, then chemically etching the resulting pattern.
New nanolithography will be needed to continue advances in computer technology and to extend Moore's law.
Nuclear engineers and scientists at Purdue University and the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory are working to improve the efficiency of two techniques for producing the plasma: One approach uses a laser and the other "discharge-produced" method uses an electric current.
"In either case, only about 1 to 2 percent of the energy spent is converted into plasma," said Ahmed Hassanein, a professor of Nuclear Engineering and head of Purdue's School of Nuclear Engineering. "That conversion efficiency means you'd need greater than 100 kilowatts of power for this lithography, which poses all sorts of engineering problems."
"We are involved in optimizing conversion efficiency - reducing the energy requirements - and solving various design problems for the next-generation lithography."
The laser method creates plasma by heating xenon, tin or lithium. The plasma produces high-energy packets of light, called photons, of extreme ultraviolet light.
The work is based at the Center for Materials Under Extreme Environments at Purdue. Previous support came from Intel Corp and Sematech, an industry consortium formed to advance computer technology.
If this research bears fruition, the resultant chips created by extreme ultraviolet photolithography will be a bear to power manage.