Members of industry, government and the news media gathered at Sandia National Laboratories/ Livermore this week to mark completion of the first full-scale prototype lithography machine for making computer chips using extreme ultraviolet (EUV) light.
The technology — developed by Lawrence Livermore, Sandia and Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories — is a breakthrough that will lead to microprocessors tens of times faster than today’s most powerful chips and create memory chips with similar increases in storage capacity.
Wednesday morning’s EUV Lithography Milestone Celebration featured remarks from Gen. John Gordon, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration; Craig Barrett, CEO of Intel; Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, D-Tassajara; and Sunlin Chou, Intel senior vice president and chairman of the EUV Limited Liability Company Management Board.
The prototype EUVL machine, called the Engineering Test Stand, is located at Sandia and was developed in a unique industry-government collaboration between the three DOE laboratories — which joined their research efforts in a Virtual National Laboratory — and a consortium of semiconductor companies called the EUV LLC.
The consortium includes Intel Corporation, Motorola Inc., Advanced Micro Devices Inc., Micron Technology Inc., Infineon Technologies and International Business Machines.
EUV lithography was developed because the current chip-printing technology is expected to reach its physical limits in the next few years. It will no longer be able to continue printing smaller and smaller features, thus limiting the number of circuits that can be printed onto chips and halting advances in speed and power.
Current lithography technology is expected to allow semiconductor manufacturers to eventually print circuits as small as 0.1 micron in width, or 1/1,000th the width of a human hair. EUV lithography technology is being developed to allow manufacturers to print circuit lines down to at least 0.03 microns, extending the current pace of semiconductor innovation at least through the end of this decade.
The Engineering Test Stand prototype EUVL machine produced its first images on silicon in January.
“The completion of the prototype machine marks a major milestone for the program, since we have proven that EUV lithography works,” said Chuck Gwyn, program manager of the EUV LLC.
The prototype machine will be used by LLC partners and lithography tool suppliers during the next year to refine the technology and prepare to create a prototype commercial machine that meets industry requirements for high-volume chip production.
Processors built using EUV technology are expected to reach speeds of up to 10 GHz in 2005-2006. By comparison, the fastest Pentium 4 processor today is 1.5 GHz.
Gen. Gordon called the national laboratories’ work in EUVL “spectacular.”
“These kinds of challenges are exactly the kind of work our national laboratories do best,” said Gordon. “The EUVL partnership demonstrates that fundamental science and innovative ideas can be applied toward solutions in both the commercial and public sectors. This really is a partnership that works in every dimension.”
“The cooperation and coordination in this project has been phenomenal,” said Intel CEO Craig Barrett. “Getting together with the best in government research has made this project very exciting.”
Intel’s Sunlin Chou said “I feel extremely privileged to have shared in this extraordinary feat. It’s a proud and happy day for the national labs.”
The Laboratory’s EUVL team is headed by Don Sweeney of Physics and Advanced Technologies’ Information Science & Technology Program. Other team members include Sasa Bajt, Sherry Baker, Kenneth Blaedel, Butch Bradsher, Charlie Cerjan, Henry Chapman, Courtney Davidson, Daren Dillon, Jim Folta, Fred Grabner, Layton Hale, Patrick Kearney, Cindy Larson, Rick Levesque Paul Mirkarimi, Nhan Nguyen, Don Phillion, Mark Schmidt, Frank Snell, Gary Sommargren, Regina Soufli, Eberhard Spiller, John Taylor and Chris Walton.
James Glaze heads the Virtual National Laboratory.