SANTA CLARA, Calif.Hoping to extend the life of optical lithography tools, a group led by the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) is attempting to drum up support for another technology generationthis one with an exposure wavelength of 126 nanometers.
In a paper to be presented at the SPIE Microlithography Conference on Thursday, the institute claims it has developed a prototype system that will bridge the gap between future 157-nm scanners and what most in the industry call "next-generation lithography" (NGL) tools.
Some advocates believe a 126-nm optical tool will be able to deliver devices with feature sizes in a staggering 0.06-to-0.055-micron rangeor perhaps lower. But most lithography experts say the university's systemand the 126-nm technology itselfis little more than a curiosity item.
A 126-nm system from RIT is nothing more than a pure "research tool," according to analyst Klaus-Dieter Rinnen, who tracks the industry at Dataquest Inc., San Jose, Calif.
"I am not too optimistic about the 126-nm technology node," Rinnen added. "You have a lot of problems with 126 nm. You encounter low-power sources and other problems."
But given the fact that the industry is still pushing the limits of optics, the development of a 126-nm lithography technology is intriguing, according to industry observers. Some observers also noted that 157-nm lasers were not really considered a viable production technology until the past several years when delays in NGL appeared likely.
Based on an argon laser source, the RIT's prototype system achieves 126-nm wavelengths via a small dielectric barrier discharge lamp. It also features small field catoptric imaging system, based on a modified "Cassegrain" technology, according to the RIT paper being presented at this week's conference.