RIT Receives Grant from SEMATECH and Albany Research Foundation

Next-generation nanolithography techniques expected to extend life of state-of-the-art microchips

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A. Sue Weisler

Bruce Smith

The microsystems engineering program in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology has been awarded a grant for $550,000 to work with semiconductor industry leader SEMATECH and The Research Foundation of the State University of New York at Albany. The partnership between the three organizations solidifies their working relationship in the growing semiconductor industry in New York state.

“The project will be part of the next generation nanolithography technology for sub-32nm semiconductor devices. We are exploring new and alternative photoresist materials that will be used to create nanometer scale patterns for semiconductor devices,” says Bruce Smith, Intel Professor and the director of the microsystems engineering Ph.D. program.

RIT has been involved in nanotechnology research and development for nearly 20 years, pioneering several lithographic processes used by the semiconductor industry today. RIT has played a key role in the development of the immersion nanolithography used worldwide for the manufacture of state-of-the art microchips.

Microchips at the sub-100 nanometer scale—less than on millionth of meter—have been the standard of the microelectronics industry for several years. The demand for faster processing speeds and increased processing capacity, as well as integration of green technologies, propels researchers to develop newer, more robust solutions.

The goal of this project is to support the extension of immersion nanolithography and semiconductor device processing solutions as far as possible and to explore alternative approaches to extend the roadmap as long as possible, Smith explained. The nanolithography roadmap is now progressing toward what is known as extreme ultraviolet lithography, or EUVL. By pushing immersion lithography to allow for sub-32nm patterning, the insertion of EUVL as a replacement technology can be pushed off a few more years, he says.

Smith, who also serves as director of the Center for Nanolithography, together with Thomas Smith, professor of chemistry and microsystems engineering, are leading a cross-disciplinary team that includes six Ph.D. and graduate students from both the Kate Gleason College of Engineering and the RIT College of Science. The team provides a unique understanding of the materials and processes necessary for the development of new photoresist technologies. Their expertise allows for the creation of materials from the ground up as well as the testing of the materials using world-class nanolithography research systems, Smith adds.

Note: SEMATECH is an international consortium of technology companies, universities and government agencies focusing on the continued development of nanotechnology. It has become a centralized resource for accelerating the commercialization of technology innovations into manufacturing solutions. The Research Foundation of SUNY at Albany is part of the State University of New York system and manages contract and grant-funded research projects between partners from industry and academia.