LEUVEN, Belgium ó ASML and IMEC will collaborate to define automated optimization capabilities for future lithography systems. The work will take place in a new Advanced Patterning Center on the IMEC campus, the two organizations announced here.
Separately, Janssen Pharmaceuticals joined a high-performance computing initiative between IMEC and Intel to form a center focused on life sciences. The two deals highlight the need for multidisciplinary research in both electronics and life sciences.
"With expertise from many different domains we can make the unexpected happen," said Luc Van den hove, chief executive of IMEC.
The independent research institute employs about 2,000 people working beside 600 resident researchers from partners that come from 75 countries. "Diversity is a good breeding ground for innovation -- our best asset is the multi-disciplinary set of people we have on board," Van den hove said.
The patterning center will employ up to 100 people over the next two years. It will research ways immersion and extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography systems can automatically adjust parameters to maintain an optimal process window.
The job used to be done by operators of the machines in a commercial fab. But the move to double patterning and EUV is making the process more complex, opening a need for greater automation.
Researchers will seek ways litho systems can build in metrology and control systems to adjust scanner, etch, and mask setting for optimal results. "It's becoming harder to look at one step without seeing what it means for others," said Chistophe Fouquet, executive vice president for applications at ASML.
The issues are becoming increasingly complex as immersion systems move to double patterning at 20nm and triple patterning at 10nm. EUV systems will further heighten the need for automated tools, said Fouquet, speaking at an annual IMEC press event.
"The next few years calls for more of a connection between metrology, light and complex control software -- this whole ecosystem has to be in place by the time EUV comes [estimated in late 2015]," he said.
ASML hopes to develop a product that can control a variety of functions. They include optimal proximity correction, dosing and coating levels and the overlay of masks which eventually will need to be within one or two nanometers.
"You cannot do this in an isolated way," said Van den hove. "Each feature needs to work in conjunction with all the others, and everything has to be optimized concurrently -- that's the main goal of this center," he said.