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 yet another technology generation 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 range--or perhaps lower. But most lithography experts believe that the university's system--and the 126-nm technology itself--is 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. in San Jose.
"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 given much consideration as 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.