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A New Cleanroom for a Next-Generation Semiconductor Research Tool Print
The new Sector 12 cleanroom under construction.

The ALS shutdown represents the fruition of many long-range projects, and for SEMATECH, a consortium of semiconductor manufacturing companies that funds research and engineering projects at Beamlines 12.0.1 and 11.3.2, this year’s shutdown includes the construction of a new cleanroom that will house an exciting, cutting-edge extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography tool. The new micro-exposure tool (MET) will include what’s arguably the highest-quality optic ever built, which will enable precompetitive research for SEMATECH’s semiconductor manufacturing member companies.

“Right now the industry is facing a transition; basically they’ve come to the end of what they can do with conventional optics and light and need to jump to extreme ultraviolet (EUV) light,” says Patrick Naulleau, director of the Center for X-Ray Optics (CXRO). “Having this tool available at the ALS five to ten years before this resolution capability is widely available to industry allows them to learn about the materials, process, and chemistry in parallel to all the other development they’re doing.”

The new MET (MET5) that will go into the Sector 12 cleanroom was designed by CXRO scientists and engineers to replace the current MET, which was installed in 2003. “When we started using the old MET, materials could only pattern down to about 50 nanometers but the tool was capable of 14 nm,” says Naulleau.  “Now, that we have materials that can pattern 15 nanometers we were tasked by industry to develop a new EUV tool that could support 8-nm patterning.”

The new MET, which will be up and running by Q1 2015, will allow industry and academic researchers to gain the critical nanopatterning information required to develop the next generation of photoresist materials. These materials are key to pushing semiconductor manufacturing to the single digit nm regime. Naulleau likens the lithography tool to a Xerox copier for wafers; the key component being a high-end optic that projects an image of a circuit pattern onto a silicon wafer. Because the requirements for these materials are now much tighter than they were 10 years ago, an ultra-pure cleanroom environment and extremely reproducible robotic wafer and chemical handling was necessary.

The new MET is part of CXRO’s overall EUV lithography program at the ALS, which also includes  mask inspection at the SHARP microscope next door and EUV/soft-x-ray Calibrations and Standards facility at Beamline 6.

“We are very excited about our long stadnding partnership with the semiconductor industry and bringing this new world-class capability online,” says Naulleau.

Sector 12 cleanroom construction is underway; the new optics arrive in September; and the new micro-exposure tool (MET) will be available to users early next year.