BILLERICA, Mass. -- A spinoff from Massachusetts Institute of Technology is seeking development or commercialization partners for a novel subnanometer-precision position-measurement system for semiconductor manufacturing.
According to NanoWave Inc. here, the NanoWave Scanning Probe Position Encoder (NW SPPE) offers unprecedented precision and accuracy in position measurement and control, as well as capability for 300-mm wafers. The MIT spinoff said its tool will enable manufacturing equipment to move and be controlled in real time at subnanometer, or atomic levels of precision, with the capability of reliable measurement over 12 inches -- a key requirement for 300-mm (12-inch) wafer fabrication.
NanoWave said the technology has applications in semiconductor fabs, mass data storage plants--such as optical disk mastering and magnetic disk servo writing--and precision optics manufacturing, such as diamond turning. Further development of this technology is also expected to open up new avenues in bio-genetics engineering.
According to the company, the technology uses a novel employment of scanning probe technologies and high-precision holographic gratings, together with patented phase-tracking position measurement methods, and state-of-the-art control algorithms.
Most position measurement systems today employ laser interferometry, which is limited in terms of precision and reliability for the emerging demands of semiconductor manufacturing, DVD mastering, and hard disk servo writing, said NanoWave's co-founder, Tetsuo Ohara. The slightest of changes in refractive index due to changes in air pressure, temperature, humidity, or air movement can easily send the position readings of a laser interferometer out of measurement reliability range, he said.
The company said the NanoWave SPPE is impervious to such changes because it uses a radically different means of taking measurements. While laser scale technology is somewhat resistant to such refractive index changes, the slow speed and single-axis configuration of these systems make them also increasingly impractical, according to Ohara. The NanoWave SPPE combines the high speed of the laser interferometer with the compact design of the laser scale systems, and adds exceptionally high precision, simpler and more cost-effective product design, long-range measurement capability, and multi-axis configurations.
Ohara, NanoWave's president and CEO, invented the subnanometer technology in the early '90s and co-founded NanoWave in 1995. The Billerica startup has been developing the technology primarily with private investment and National Science Foundation grants. NanoWave is seeking to license the technology for commercial production because the company is small and has limited resources.
"Reliable position measurement and control at this level of precision is in high demand in a variety of key industries, like semiconductor fabrication and mass data storage," Ohara said. "Our goal, first and foremost, is to get this technology out to these industries so that they can finally move forward with their own plans for nano-scale manufacturing."
Ohara said some informal discussions have taken place with these players over the past few years. "We are now moving forward with formal negotiations," he said. "We are confident that we'll be able to come to licensing agreements quickly, with the goal of realizing the true potential of subnanometer position measurement and control for nanomanufacturing within the next year."