Austin, Texas The New York state capital is fast becoming the semiconductor industry's north star, as Albany Nanotech continues to mount big, multipartner research projects. The latest is a lithography consortium, announced last week, that could draw total public and private spending of $600 million over the next seven years.
The Invent consortium it stands for International Venture for Nanolithography will explore immersion 193-nanometer lithography as well as extreme-ultraviolet (EUV) lithography process development, with $105 million in the bank from the Empire State to buy immersion and EUV tools from ASML Holding NV. Hosted by the University of Albany, the consortium brings together four chip makers that now use ASML scanners Advanced Micro Devices; AMD's logic development partner, IBM; and memory vendors Infineon Technologies and Micron Technology along with dozens of metrology, photoresist and other equipment and materials suppliers, ranging from Applied Materials to Veeco.
The work will be done under the umbrella of the university's Albany Nanotech facility, which is shaping up as a new center of gravity for global semiconductor R&D.
"This is big," said Dan Hutcheson, chairman of VLSI Research Inc. (Santa Clara, Calif.), who noted that Albany Nanotech's emphasis on process integration places it squarely in the ranks of Europe's Interuniversity Microelectronics Center (IMEC) and International Sematech, based here. "The investments in Albany have caused a shift in weight among IMEC, Sematech and Albany," he said.
With all of Albany Nanotech's various cooperative activities including one with International Sematech itself Hutcheson said the combined annual spending already equals Sematech's yearly outlay, about $200 million, and probably exceeds IMEC's budget somewhat. Sematech's Albany branch, which is working on EUV mask blank and resist development, receives about $40 million annually from Albany Nanotech in shared-equipment costs and in-kind expenses, such as clean room space.
Hutcheson compared the New York endeavor with Germany's subsidies to attract AMD, Infineon, Toppan Photomasks and other semiconductor-related companies to Dresden, saying, "This is socialized research." In funding Albany Nanotech, the New York state government is attempting to attract high-paying jobs to the region and to keep the research work force of native son IBM Corp. close to home.
"Immersion is already fairly far along, so I think most of the money spent at Albany will be on EUV," Hutcheson said. "That is the big bear to chase, because EUV development is so very expensive."
Alain Kaloyeros, the president of Albany Nanotech, said the New York state legislature has provided $105 million thus far for the new lithography initiative, with another $75 million set aside in next year's planned state budget. The expectation is that the corporate partners will put up the equivalent of $2 for every $1 in state funding, he added. Though most of the experienced engineers will come to Albany from the four corporate chip-making partners, Albany Nanotech itself plans to hire about 175 people, ranging from engineers and technicians to secretaries, to staff the Invent center, he said.
Because IMEC's research center in Leuven, Belgium, has had close relations with ASML, located only a few hundred kilometers away in Veldhoven, Netherlands, IMEC to date has enjoyed approximately a six-month lead in gaining access to early ASML scanners. That critical time advantage, which lured companies such as Texas Instruments Inc. and Intel Corp. to do their early immersion research in Belgium, may be changing as Albany Nanotech's partners bring their collective buying clout to the table, Albany Nanotech officials said.
Recently, Kaloyeros criticized Intel for its alleged "export" of R&D dollars to IMEC (see June 13, page 1).
Chief technology officer Jim Ryan said that Albany Nanotech originally planned to install an ASML immersion scanner, the 1400i model, equipped with a lens with a numerical aperture (NA) of 0.93. At Semicon West two weeks ago, ASML announced that it would ship a "hyper-NA" immersion tool, the 1700i scanner, next March with a 1.2-NA lens. Ryan said that Albany Nanotech recently was able to switch its order to a 1700i, even though the competition for early 1700i slots is intense.
"The 1700i is a hot tool, and everyone wants one. We were able to convince ASML that the 1700i was a better match for us than the 1400i," said Ryan, an interconnect expert who spent 25 years in semiconductor R&D at IBM's microelectronics division. Albany Nanotech already owns ASML's first immersion tool, the 1150i, which IBM used to create the first working microprocessor made with immersion lithography, a device in the Power architecture. Albany Nanotech also has plans to buy a "dry" 193-nm scanner, the 1200 model, so that its partners can do complete 45-nm-and-beyond process integration at Albany, including steps that may not require immersion enhancements.
On the EUV front, Kaloyeros said the Invent consortium will take possession of an ASML "alpha" EUV tool "well ahead of IMEC." The Invent consortium expects to receive its ASML tool in the first half of next year, with operation expected to begin later in 2006. Albany will spend "over $40 million" for ASML's preproduction EUV tool, Kaloyeros said.
An IMEC spokeswoman said IMEC officials were not available for comment last week, largely due to the vacation season in Europe. ASML declined to comment, though a spokeswoman acknowledged that the Dutch company this year set up a separate development center at Albany Nanotech, called IMPLSE, in partnership with IBM.
Craig Sander, vice president of logic development at Advanced Micro Devices Inc., said Invent will allow AMD to "get its hands on a full-field immersion tool for working with resists, for our own process development." Later, AMD and IBM will transfer what they have learned at Albany to facilities at nearby East Fishkill, N.Y., where they are developing silicon-on-insulator logic technology aimed at the 65-nm and 45-nm nodes.
In the big picture, Sander said, New York's "very, very aggressive funding" of Albany Nanotech means a reduced R&D burden for chip companies such as AMD, which have seen demands for R&D grow rapidly. "In the past, every time a new generation of lithography came around, everyone went out and bought their own alpha tool," he said. "It has gotten too expensive to do that. With EUV, by the time it is in place, you are looking at as much as $35 million to $50 million for a preproduction tool." Sander said Invent will receive "the first alpha EUV tool from ASML and IMEC the second, though the dates are very close together."
With New York and Texas vying to buy tools for Sematech, and New York digging deep to support Invent, other states may feel pressure to support chip research as well, said Sander. "I live in California, and I wish California was putting up more money to support semiconductor research," he said. "I don't see that at the moment. What New York is doing is a great example, and I'd like to see other states step up."
Sander said that at Albany, AMD and the other partners will be able to protect the knowledge gained. "We will have direct access to a tool and can run our own experiments on that tool," he said.
Albany Nanotech CTO Ryan noted that while it is difficult to describe the interrelations among the various groups that call the facility home including IBM's Center for Semiconductor Research, International Sematech, ASML's IMPLSE center and a Tokyo Electron Ltd. R&D center Albany Nanotech has rigorous procedures in place to protect corporate intellectual property (IP).
"The companies that are most concerned about IP protection are the small chemical companies, the smaller suppliers, who are working here. They are very concerned that their IP remain confidential," Ryan said.
All the latest tools
Albany has been operating a small-field-size EUV tool since last year, about the same time that Intel brought up its EUV micro-exposure tool (MET) at its Hillsboro, Ore., process development center. Both Intel and Albany Nanotech purchased their EUV MET tools from Exitech Ltd. (Oxford, England).
Kevin Kemp, director of the lithography program at International Sematech, said Sematech plans to install an Exitech immersion MET tool, with a numerical aperture of 1.2, next month. However, Sematech still has not decided whether the MET will be placed in Austin, with funding support from the state of Texas, or at Albany, where the tool would be partially paid for by Albany Nanotech.
Michael Lercel, an IBM assignee who is the associate director of the Sematech lithography program, said Sematech's immersion technology center, funded in part by Texas, has installed a high-NA interferometry exposure tool. That tool will be used in Sematech's program to discover fluids that have a higher index of refraction than water.
The small-field-size tool was purchased from Amphibian Systems in Rochester, N.Y., an immersion lithography spinout from the Rochester Institute of Technology, he said. The program, managed by Will Conley, an assignee from Freescale Semiconductor Inc., also is looking at resists with high refraction indices, Lercel said.
A Sematech spokesman said that Texas also is funding a nanoimprint lithography program, in cooperation with Sematech and the University of Texas. Thus far, that program involves a single assignee, Jim Ellensen from Hewlett-Packard Co., working with University of Texas at Austin students.
Funding comes from the Advanced Materials Research Center, sponsored by the state of Texas and operated jointly by International Sematech and several Texas-based universities.