Tag Archives: pitch

EUVL Masks may need to be Tool-Specific

Extreme Ultra-Violet Lithography (EUVL) keeps hurting my brain. Just when I can understand how it could be used in profitable commercial high-volume manufacturing (HVM) I hear something that seriously strains my brain. First it was the mirrors and mask in vacuum, then it was the resist and pellicle, then it was the source power and availability, and in each case scientists and engineers did amazing work and showed a way to HVM. Now we hear that EUVL might require fabs to park work-in-progress (WIP) lots of wafers behind a single critical tool with an idealistic 80% availability on a good day, and lots of downtime bad days. Horrors!

For “5nm-node” designs the maximum allowable edge placement-error (EPE) in patterning overlay is only 2nm. While the physics of ~13.5nm wavelength EUVL means that aberration in the reflecting mirrors appears as up to 3nm variation in the fidelity of projected patterns. This variation can be measured and compensated for at the physical mask level, but then each mask would only be good for one specific exposure tool. John Sturtevant—SPIE Fellow, and director of RET product development in the Design to Silicon Division at Mentor Graphics—briefly discussed this on February 26th during Nikon LithoVision held just before SPIE Advanced Lithography.

Sturtevant explained that the Zernike coefficients for EUV are inherently almost 1 order-of-magnitude higher than for DUV at 193nm wavelength, as detailed in the SemiMD article “Edge Placement Error Control in Multi-Patterning.” How the inherent physical sources of aberration must be tightened to avoid image distortion and contrast loss as they scale with wavelength was discussed by by Fenger et al. in 2013 in the article “Extreme ultraviolet lithography resist-based aberration metrology” (doi:10.1117/1.JMM.12.4.043001).


Patterning with Films and Chemicals

Somewhere around 40nm is the limit on the smallest half-pitch feature that can be formed with a single-exposure of 193-nm wavelength laser light using water immersion (193i) lithography. While multiple-patterning (MP) is needed to achieve tighter half-pitches, smaller features at the same pitch can be formed using technology extensions of 193i. “Chemistry is key player in lithography process,” is the title of a short video presentation by Dow Electronic Materials corporate fellow Peter Trefonas now hosted on the SPIE website (DOI: 10.1117/2.201608.02).

Trefonas as been working on chemistries for lithography for decades, including photoresists, antireflectant coatings, underlayers, developers, ancillary products, and environmentally safer green products. He is an inventor on 61 US patents, has over 25 additional published active U.S. patent applications, is an author of 99 journal and technical publications, and is a recipient of the 2014 ACS Heroes of Chemistry Award and the 2013 SPIE C. Grant Willson Best Paper Award in Patterning Materials and Processes. Now a Senior Member of SPIE, he earned his Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry with Prof. Robert West at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1985.

Trefonas explains how traditional Chemically-Amplified (CA) resists are engineered with Photo-Acid Generators (PAG) to balance the properties for advanced lithography. However, in recent years the ~40-nm half-pitch resolution limit has been extended with chemistries to shrink contact holes, smooth line-width roughness, and to do frequency-multiplication using Directed Self-Assembly (DSA). All of these resolution extension technologies rely upon chemistry to create the final desired pattern fidelity.


SAQP Specs for 7nm finFETs

As discussed in my last Ed’s Threads, lithography has become patterning as evidenced by first use of Self-Aligned Quadruple Patterning (SAQP) in High Volume Manufacturing (HVM) of memory chips. Meanwhile, industry R&D hub imec has been investigating use of SAQP for “7nm” and “5nm” node finFET HVM, as reported as SPIE-AL this year in Paper 9782-12.
The specifications for pitches ranging from 18 to 24 nanometers are as follow:

  • 7.0nm Critical Dimension (CD) after etch,
  • 0.5nm (3sigma) CD uniformity (CDU), and
  • <1nm Line-Width and Line-End Roughness (LWR and LER) assuming 10% of CD.

“Pitch walk”—variation in final pitch after multi-patterning—results in different line widths, and can result in subsequent excessive etch variation due to non-uniform loading effects. To keep the pitch walk in SAQP at acceptable levels for the 7nm node, the core-1 CDU has to be 0.5nm 3sigma and 0.8nm range after both litho and etch. In other presentations at SPIE-AL this year, the best LER after litho was ~4nm, improving to ~2nm after PEALD smoothing of sidewalls, but still double the desired spec.

The team at imec developed a SAQP flow using amorphous-Carbon (aC) and amorphous-Silicon (aSi) as the cores, and low-temperature Plasma-Enhanced Atomic-Layer Deposition (PEALD) of SiO2 for both sets of spacers. Bilayer DARC (SiOC) and BARC were used for reflectivity control. Compared to SAQP schemes where the mandrels are only aSi, imec claims that this approach saves 20% in cost due to the use of aC core and the elimination of etch-stopping-layers.


Litho becomes Patterning

Once upon a time, lithographic (litho) processes were all that IC fabs needed to transfer the design-intent into silicon chips. Over the last 10-15 years, however, IC device structural features have continued to shrink below half the wavelength of the laser light used in litho tools, such that additional process steps are needed to form the desired features. Self-Aligned Double Patterning (SADP) schemes use precise coatings deposited as “spacers” on the sidewalls of mandrels made from developed photoresist or a sacrificial material at a given pitch, such that after selective mandrel etching the spacers pitch-split. SADP has been used in HVM IC fabs for many years now. Self-Aligned Quadruple Pattering (SAQP) has reportedly been deployed in a memory IC fab, too.

An excellent overview of the patterning complexities of SAQP was provided by Sophie Thibaut of TEL in a presentation at SPIE-AL on “SAQP integration using spacer on spacer pitch splitting at the resist level for sub-32nm pitch applications.” Use of a spacer-on-spacer process flow—enabled by clever combinations of SiO2 and TiO2 spacers deposited by Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD)—requires the following unit-process steps:
1 193i litho,
2 ALD spacers,
2 wet etches, and
4 plasma etches.

Since non-litho processes dominate the transfer of design-intent to silicon, from first principles we should consider such integrated flows as “patterning.” Etch selectivity to remove one material while leaving another, and deposition dependent on underlying materials determine much of the pattern fidelity. Such process flows are new to IC fabs, but have been used for decades in the manufacturing of Micro-Electrical Mechanical Systems (MEMS), though generally on a patterning length scale of microns instead of the nanometers needed for advanced ICs. R&D labs today are even experimenting with Self-Aligned Octuple Patterning (SAOP), and based on the legacy of MEMS processing it certainly could be done.


Single-electron Molecular Switch 4nm Across

A molecule rotating on the surface of a crystal can function as a tunnel-gate of a transistor, as shown by researchers from the Paul-Drude-Institut für Festkörperelektronik (PDI) and the Freie Universität Berlin (FUB), Germany, the NTT Basic Research Laboratories (NTT-BRL), Japan, and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). Their complete findings are published in the 13 July 2015 issue of the journal Nature Physics. The team used a highly stable scanning tunneling microscope (STM) to create a transistor consisting of a single organic molecule and positively charged metal atoms, positioning them with the STM tip on the surface of an indium arsenide (InAs) crystal.
Dr. Stefan Fölsch, a physicist at the PDI who led the team, explained that “the molecule is only weakly bound to the InAs template. So, when we bring the STM tip very close to the molecule and apply a bias voltage to the tip-sample junction, single electrons can tunnel between template and tip by hopping via nearly unperturbed molecular orbitals, similar to the working principle of a quantum dot gated by an external electrode. In our case, the charged atoms nearby provide the electrostatic gate potential that regulates the electron flow and the charge state of the molecule.”

(Top) STM images of phthalocyanine (H2Pc) molecule rotated from a neutral (50 pA, 60 mV; left) to −1 charged states (50 pA, −60 mV; centre and right) on InAs(111) surface using a ~4nm across hexagonal array of charged indium adatoms surrounding the H2Pc to create rotational energy minima, and (Bottom) schematic model of H2Pc rotation relative to the InAs lattice resulting in the electrostatic gating of tunneling to an STM tip vertical to the device. (Source: Nature Physics)

(Top) STM images of phthalocyanine (H2Pc) molecule rotated from a neutral (50 pA, 60 mV; left) to −1 charged states (50 pA, −60 mV; centre and right) on InAs(111) surface using a ~4nm across hexagonal array of charged indium adatoms surrounding the H2Pc to create rotational energy minima, and (Bottom) schematic model of H2Pc rotation relative to the InAs lattice resulting in the electrostatic gating of tunneling to an STM tip vertical to the device. (Source: Nature Physics)

The Figure shows that the diameter of the device is ~4nm, so by conservative estimation we may take this as the half-pitch of closest-packed devices in IC manufacturing, which leads to pitch of 8nm. As a reminder, today’s “22nm- to 14nm-node” devices feature ~80nm transistor gate pitches (with “10nm node” planning to use ~65nm gate pitch, and “5nm node” ICs expected with ~36nm gate pitch). Thus, these new prototypes prove the concept that ICs with densities 100x more than today’s state-of-the-art chips could be made…if on-chip wires can somehow connect all of the needed circuitry together reliably and affordably.

ASML Books Production EUV Orders

TSMC commits to two tools for delivery next year

Maybe, just maybe, ASML Holding N.V. (ASML) has made the near-impossible a reality by creating a cost-effective Extreme Ultra-Violet (EUV @ ~13.5nm wavelength) all-reflective lithographic tool. The company has announced that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Ltd. (TSMC) has ordered two NXE:3350B EUV systems for delivery in 2015 with the intention to use those systems in production. In addition, two NXE:3300B systems already delivered to TSMC will be upgraded to NXE:3350B performance. While costs and throughputs are conspicuously not-mentioned, this is still an important step for the industry.
Perhaps acquiring Cymer to get the source-technology in-house for tighter integration was important. Perhaps evolutionary improvements crept along by tough engineering rigor. Perhaps the industry got lucky. One way or the other, ASML has had the goal of delivering not just hardware but functional uptime/availability using very complex EUV technology, and now it seems to be on the cusp of making it happen. The company claims that current EUV tools are available 50% of the time, at unspecified source power levels.
At its Investor Day in London today, ASML outlined its expected opportunity to grow net sales to about EUR 10 billion and to triple earnings per share by 2020, an indication of the confidence the company has in its technology and employees. Much of the growth will be in Deep-UV immersion tools, and in so-called “Holistic Lithography” products to deliver advanced correction capabilities. An example of Holistic Litho is Source-Mask-Optimization (SMO) that can be used for triple-patterning of a 48nm minimum pitch metal layer using DUV immersion in a Litho-Etch-Litho-Etch-Litho-Etch (LELELE) flow, such that the Depth-of-Focus (DoF) can be increased from 70 to 86nm. Holistic EUV means that SMO can reduce the dose required to get 120nm DoF from 46 to 20 mJ/cm2 for a 45nm minimum pitch metal layer.
The presentations can be found at the company’s website.
— E. K.

Moore’s Law is Dead – (Part 3) Where?

…we reach the atomic limits of device scaling.

At ~4nm pitch we run out of room “at the bottom,” after patterning costs explode at 45nm pitch.

Lead bongo player of physics Richard Feynman famously said, “There’s plenty of room at the bottom,” and in 1959 when the IC was invented a semiconductor device was composed of billions of atoms so it seemed that it would always be so. Today, however, we can see the atomic limits of miniaturization on the horizon, and we can start to imagine the smallest possible functioning electronic device.

Today’s leading edge ICs are made using “22nm node” fab technology where the smallest lithographically defined structure—likely a transistor gate—is just 22nm across. However, the pitch between such transistors is ~120nm, because we are already dealing with the resolution limits of lithography using water-immersion 193nm with off-axis-illumination through phase-shift masks. Even if a “next-generation” lithography (NGL) technology were proven cost-effective in manufacturing— perhaps EbDW for guidelines combined with DSA for feature fill and EUV for trim—we still must control individual atoms.

We may have confidence in shrinking to 62nm pitch for a 4x increase in density. We may even be optimistic that we can shrink further to a 41nm pitch for a ~10x increase in density…but that’s nearing the atomic limits of variability. There are many hypothesized nanoscale devices which could succeed silicon CMOS in IC, but one commonality of all devices is that they will have to be electrically connected. Therefore, we can simplify our consideration of the atomic limits of device scaling by focusing on the smallest possible interconnect.

4nmPitchDevice_TheorySo what is the smallest possible electrical interconnect? So far it would be a Single-Walled Carbon NanoTube (SWCNT) doped with metals to be conducting. The minimum diameter of a SWCNT happens to be 0.4nm, but that was found inside another CNT and the minimum repeatable diameter for a stand-alone SWCNT is ~1nm. So if we need three contacts to a device then the smallest device we can build with atoms would be a 3nm diameter quantum dot. As shown in the figure at right, if we examine a plan-view of such a device we can just fit three 1nm diameter contacts within the area.

Our magical device will have to be electrically isolated and so some manner of dielectric will be needed with some minimal number of atoms. Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) of alumina has been proven in very tight geometries, and 3 atomic layers of alumina takes up ~1nm so we can assume that spacing between devices. A rectangular array would then result in ~16nm2 as the smallest possible 3-terminal device that can be built on the surface of planet Earth.

Note that a SWCNT of ~1 nm diameter theoretically could carry ~25 microAmps across an estimated 5kOhm internal resistance [(ECS Transactions, 3 (2) 441-448 (2006)]. I will leave it to someone with a stronger device physics background to comment as to the suitability of such contacts for useful circuitry. However, from a manufacturing perspective, to ensure electrical contacts to billions of nanoscale devices we generally use redundant structures, and doubling the number of SWCNT contacts to a 3-terminal device would call for ~8 nm pitch.

However, before we reach the 4-8nm pitch theoretical limits of device scaling, we will reach relative economic limits of scaling just one device feature such as a transistor gate. Recall that there are just 22 silicon atoms (assuming silicon crystal lattice spacing of ~0.3nm) across a ~7nm line, and every atom counts in controlling device parameters. Imec’s Aaron Thean recently provided an excellent overview of scaled finFET technologies, and though the work does not look at packing density we can draw some general trends. If we assume 41nm pitch and double fins with 20nm gate length then each device would use ~1,600 nm2.

Where are we now? Let us consider traditional 6-transistor (6T) SRAM cells built using “22nm node” logic process flows to have minimal area of ~100,000 nm2 or ~16,000 nm2 per transistor. At IEDM2013 (9.1), TSMC announced a “16nm node” 6T SRAM with ~70,000 nm2 area or ~10,000 nm2 per transistor.

IBM recently announced that 6 parallel 30nm long SWCNT spaced 8nm apart will be developed as transistors for ICs by the year 2020. Such an array would use up ~1440 nm2 of area. Again, this is at best another 10x in density compared to today’s “22nm node” ICs.

Imec held another Technology Forum at SEMICON/West this year, in which Wilfried Vandervorst presented an overview of innovations in metrology needed to continue shrinking device dimensions. His work with Scanning Spreading Resistance Microscopy (SSRM) is extraordinary, showing ability to resolve 1-2nm conductivity variations in memory cell material. Working with Resistive RAM (ReRAM) material using a 2nm diameter probe tip as the top contact, researchers were able to show switching of the material only underneath the contact…thus proving that a stable ReRAM cell can be made with that diameter. If we use cross-bar architectures of that material we’d be at a 4nm pitch for memory, coincidentally the same pitch needed for the densest array of 3-terminal logic components.


Pitch / “Node”

Transistor nm2

Scale from 22nm

193nm lithography double-patterning

124nm / “22nm”



Atomic variability (economics)

41nm / “7nm”



Perfect atoms (physics)




The refreshing aspect of this interconnect analysis is that it just doesn’t matter what magical switch you imagine replacing CMOS. No matter whether you imagine quantum-dots or molecular memories as circuit elements, you have to somehow connect them together.

Note also that moving to 3D IC designs does not fundamentally change the economic limits of scaling, nor does it alter the interconnect challenge. 3D ICs will certainly allow for greater number of devices to be packed into a given volume, so mobile applications will likely continue to pull for 3D integration. However, the cost/transistor is limited by 2D process technologies that have evolved over 60 years to provide maximum efficiency. Stacking IC layers will allow for faster and smaller devices, though generally only with greater costs.

Atoms don’t scale.

Past posts in the blog series:

Moore’s Law is Dead – (Part 1) What defines the end, and

Moore’s Law is Dead – (Part 2) When we reach economic limits.

The final post in this blog series (but not the blog) will discuss:

Moore’s Law is Dead – (Part 4) Why we say long live “Moore’s Law”!