SAN JOSE, Calif. IBM Corp. and Molecular Imprints Inc. (MII) are jointly working on dielectric materials to propel the development of nano-imprint lithography for mainstream chip production, according to a keynoter at the SPIE Microlithography conference here on Monday (Feb. 28).
IBM and MII are co-developing a version of spin-on glass or "photo-imagable dielectric" materials for back-of-line (BEOL) processing with nano-imprint lithography, said Grant Wilson, a co-founder of MII and professor of chemical engineering and chemistry at the University of Texas at Austin.
This represents one of the missing pieces for nano-imprint lithography, which is currently a niche technology for use in producing MEMS, storage media, and related applications. Nano-imprint proponents hope to propel the technology into IC fabs, but it currently suffers from overlay issues and a poor infrastructure.
Nano-imprint lithography specialist MII (Austin, Texas) will give a paper at SPIE on Tuesday (March 1), entitled "Direct imprinting of dielectric materials for dual damascene processing."
In the paper, MII claims that nano-imprint lithography can reduce the steps in dual-damascene chip production by one-third, as compared to traditional optical technologies.
"By using an imprint template with two levels of pattering, a single imprint lithography step replaces two separate photolithography steps," according to MII's paper. "Further efficiencies are possible if the imprint resist material is itself a functional dielectric material."
In a fab, it takes 184 steps to process a microprocessor with eight or more metal layers. With nano-imprint, the steps can be reduced down to 56, Wilson said in a keynote address.
The limiting factor is the dielectric material. MII is working with IBM to devise "photo-imagable" dielectrics with a low-k factor of 2.8 for use in nano-imprint lithography, Wilson said. "We're not aiming at 2.2," he said.
MII faces an uphill battle with the technology. Spin-on has experienced little or no success in chip production to date, analysts noted.