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Intel and Corning will make EUV masks together
Continuing to develop the idea of ultraviolet lithography (EUV, extreme-ultraviolet), Intel announced the beginning of work with Corning on EUV-masks made of Corning glass, which has very low thermal expansion.
Intel’s head of lithography compared the signing of the agreement with Corning to another link in a long chain of events that should lead to the release of the first chips according to 32nm norms, slated for 2021. By the way, for Corning, known for its lenses, this will be a debut on the EUV-mask market, which already has the Japanese Hoya Glass and the German Schott Lithotec.
It should be noted that since, unlike conventional optics, refractive imaging methods are used in UV lithography, mirror defects have a decisive effect on the quality of the lithographic system. At the same time, if for 90 nm standards SEMI (Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International) defines the lower limit for the size of a blank mask free of defects at 150 nm, then for 32 nm standards this value is only 50 nm. The requirements for the quality of polishing of the semiconductor substrate and the values of the thermal expansion coefficients in EUV lithography are also higher than in modern lithography.
By the way, the problems of ensuring sufficient power of laser radiation also did not disappear, but in connection with the above considerations, they faded into the background. But neither ASML nor Nikon, most likely, will be able to reach the required level of 115 W in the first generation of their scanners, but they promise to achieve it in the second generation of lithographic instruments that can already be used in mass production.
In addition to Corning, Intel also partners with Nikon (EUV scanners), Cymer (EUV sources), NaWoTec (electron beam processing of EUV masks) and Media Lario (collector optics).
Do not think, however, that Intel entirely trusts only EUV lithography. According to a company representative, Intel will continue to invest in the development of immersion lithography with light sources at a wavelength of 193 nm, but if EUV-tools are available by 2021 (which is scheduled for the introduction of 32-nm standards in accordance with the ITRS roadmap), then the processor the giant will not refuse to use it.