A casual conversation about improving the patterning process in optical lithography turned into a ‘aha’ moment for student Burak Baylav and Professor Bruce Smith. It would also become the foundation for more conversations addressing the future of electronic devices and Moore’s Law— a principle stating that data density has doubled approximately every 18 months.
Researchers in optical lithography struggle with sustaining Moore’s Law, which raises the stakes in the need for more efficient integrated circuits. But Baylav and Smith, director of RIT’s microsystems engineering program and Baylav’s mentor, are not deterred.
The two are addressing problems with the reliability of integrated circuit patterns, specifically “line edge roughness,” that affects electrical characteristics of devices. Controlling the line edge roughness in electronic devices today will mean improved performance tomorrow.
Baylav proposed an optical filtering technique to eliminate the transfer of pattern roughness, a key piece of his Ph.D. dissertation on lithography solutions.
Optical lithography is the process where integrated circuit designs are patterned, layer-upon-layer, onto silicon wafers. Lithographers must understand optical and chemical systems, engineering and integrated circuit design. Smith likened Baylav to an ideal lithographer because he brought some of these experiences to RIT and acquired much of the rest through his willingness to immerse himself in different projects while here.
After receiving his degree in electrical engineering in 2006 from Yeditepe University in Istanbul, Baylav entered RIT’s microelectronic engineering master’s program, graduating in 2010 and starting doctoral studies shortly afterward.
“I came from Turkey with good theory, and was able to put it into practice here. I had culture shock initially, but you get over it soon,” he says with a laugh. Coming to RIT meant changes in Baylav’s life, but it also meant learning about the manufacturing process for integrated circuits, his initial reason for pursuing a degree at RIT.
“I had always heard there were limitations to design that is imposed by the manufacturing process, in the clean room, so I wanted to learn what was meant by that,” he says.
One of those learning opportunities included a yearlong sponsored assignment at the Interuniversity Microelectonics Centre (IMEC) in Belgium, one of the premier semiconductor research facilities in the world.
“I had access to the latest technology, tools and data,” says Baylav. “It was a dream come true and I was able to use this relationship for my Ph.D. research.”
Smith established the internship with IMEC and Mentor Graphics Corp. more than 10 years ago. He recommends one student per year for the intensive program; eight have since attended. “It’s a big world, but a small family,” he says. “It is a perfect match between what we do at RIT, what the microsystems engineering program is, and what is important to Mentor Graphics and IMEC.”
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