The ability to create devices with finer features over larger areas is crucial to technological innovation in both mature and emerging industries. In the semiconductor industry, progress in increasing circuit density has been maintained by using light of ever shorter wavelengths to produce circuit patterns, but this method is expensive and further improvements are nearing their limit. This Scalable NanoManufacturing (SNM) project will use three beams of visible light of different wavelengths to produce nanoscale features with the improved resolution required to produce high density integrated circuits. Because visible light is inexpensive to produce, propagate and manipulate, the method promises to lower the cost of cutting-edge nanomanufacturing by a factor of 10 or more. The project team will collaborate with major industrial developers and end-users to transfer the technology to practice, providing a major boost to American competitiveness in scalable nanomanufacturing. The ever more compact and powerful devices that this technology will produce have the potential to impact virtually every imaginable aspect of technology and every member of our society.
The project team has researched and proven 2-color approaches to photolithography that have made possible the creation of high-resolution features using visible light. The basis of these techniques is that one color of light is used to initiate chemistry and a second color is used to inhibit it. However, these methods are not yet capable of producing the resolution needed to satisfy the requirements of the next node of the Semiconductor Roadmap. The stumbling block for 2-color approaches has been that initiation of chemistry competes with deactivation. The proposed 3-color approaches circumvent this problem. One color of light pre-activates chemistry, a second color of light deactivates the molecules, and a third color of light transforms pre-activated molecules into activated molecules that then undergo chemistry. This approach provides a viable path to attaining sub-20-nm resolution for scalable nanomanufacturing in 2 and 3 dimensions. The project team combines expertise in photolithography, photochemistry, spectroscopy and pattern transfer to realize this vision. The team will work closely with industrial collaborators who have expertise in commercial photoresists, photolithographic tool components and photolithographic simulation methods to ensure that the research methods and materials used are compatible with the needs and processes of the semiconductor industry and other consumer product industries.