SAN JOSE, Calif. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC) on Tuesday (April 22) disclosed it is pursuing a new and emerging technology called immersion lithography for advanced chip production at the 65-nm node or beyond.
The Taiwanese foundry giant is reportedly working on the technology with its sole lithography-tool supplier, ASML Holding NV of the Netherlands, according to industry observers.
In immersion lithography, the space between the projection lens of a lithography tool and the wafer is filled with a liquid. Immersion technology could offer better resolution enhancement and higher numerical apertures over conventional projection lithography.
Immersion lithography is only in the R&D stage today, but the technology is fast becoming a next-generation lithography (NGL)candidate for the production of 65-nm devices and below. If (and that's a big if) immersion proves viable, chip makers will most likely deploy 193-nm tools with this technology at the 45-nm node, thereby pushing out 157-nm scanners and extreme ultraviolet (EUV) machines.
"We are pushing immersion lithography," declared Rick Tsai, president of TSMC. "TSMC is the first semiconductor company that will drive immersion lithography," Tsai said during a keynote address at the TSMC 2003 Technology Symposium here.
TSMC is reportedly looking to sustain 132-nm wavelengths with 193-nm immersion tools, which could substantially reduce the cost of advanced chip production, according to analysts.
Originally, the company planned to use 193-nm tools at the 90-nm node, 157-nm scanners at the 65-nm node, and EUV and other NGL technologies at the 45-nm node and beyond. Delays with 157-nm technologies have prompted chip makers to seek other solutions, including immersion.
However, the market is split over the use of this technology. For example, Intel Corp. has dismissed immersion, and, instead, is pushing EUV for NGL applications. Still others, including IBM Corp., are taking a wait-and-see approach to the technology.
The tool makers are hedging their bets, however. ASML, Canon, and Nikon are all separately pursing or investigating immersion lithography. In fact, ASML is working on the technology with Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) (see Feb. 27 story ).
Genda Hu, vice president of marketing for TSMC, did not say whether or not the company is working with ASML or RIT to help fund the development of immersion lithography.
But the technology is critical, Hu said. "The 157-nm tools appear to be late in production," he said. Analysts noted that 157-nm tools were originally geared for the 65-nm node, but the technology has been pushed out due to technical problems.
In an interview with SBN, Hu dropped hints that TSMC would use existing 193-nm tools for the 65-nm node, with immersion possibly entering the picture at the tail end of that process or the 45-nm node.
TSMC is reportedly working closely with ASML and International Sematech on immersion. Chip-making consortium Sematech is in the midst of a feasibility study for immersion lithography. A spokesman for the Austin, Texas-based consortium said the results of the study would be released in July.