LEUVEN, Belgium – Moore's Law, the engine of semiconductor innovation for decades, is losing steam due to delayed introduction of next-generation extreme ultraviolet lithography. That was the verdict of experts at the 2012 International Symposium on Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography.
EUV systems need light sources that are nearly 20 times more powerful than the ones used today to lay down patterns on next-generation chips that target sizes as small as 14 nm, Following a global symposium on the topic here, a group of lithography experts said that they hope to have the 200W EUV light sources by 2014—but it may take more time.[Get a 10% discount on ARM TechCon 2012 conference passes by using promo code EDIT. Click here to learn about the show and register.]
Using less powerful light sources, researchers at the Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre (IMEC) here have created about 3,000 wafers using EUV in the past year. But the throughput of the multimillion dollar systems are still 15-30 times too slow for commercial chip makers such as Intel, Samsung and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.
Researchers have improved the power of light sources 20-fold over the past three years. But they must make similar heroic improvements in the next two years before EUV is ready for production, said Kurt Ronse, IMEC's director advanced lithography program, reporting on the conclusions of an EUV symposium in Brussels. The group also called for development of 500-1,000W EUV light sources by 2016.
As a result of the EUV delays “the [semiconductor] industry is no longer taking full steps, but implementing half nodes,” Ronse said. “They still call it 14 nm but it’s probably more like 16 or 17 nm,” he said.