Student re-routes roadblocks to identify optical lithography solutions

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A. Sue Weisler

Burak Baylav has won awards at technical conferences for his research in optical lithography and will begin work at Intel Corp. in February.

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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