July 13, 1998 Lucent Technologies has signed an agreement with Beta Squared, Inc., a subsidiary of Photronics, Inc., to jointly develop a mask cleaning technology for Lucent's SCALPEL electron-beam lithography program - a step Lucent expects to accelerate the commercialization of its next-generation lithography approach for defining semiconductor features.
The SCALPEL system projects a high-energy beam of electrons through a patterned scattering mask onto a silicon wafer to create integrated circuit features that are just 0.08 microns wide. This approach overcomes many of the limits placed on the semiconductor industry by current optical lithography systems.
"Lucent, after evaluating and analyzing other potential cleaning technologies, has initiated work with Beta Squared to adapt its PLASMAX cleaning technology for SCALPEL masks," said Lloyd Harriott, head of the SCALPEL program at Bell Labs, Lucent's research and development arm. Currently, Lucent is teaming with Beta Squared's parent company, Photronics, to establish a commercial source of SCALPEL masks.
The cleaning process is crucial because particles on the mask may result in printing defects in the photoresist-coated silicon wafer. "Beta's dry process, which is totally environmentally friendly, uses only inert gases, mechanical vibration and inherent forces present in a plasma environment," said John Festa, vice president of Beta Squared's plasma division. Beta's PLASMAX approach cleans each mask within 25 seconds.
International SEMATECH, an Austin, Texas-based semiconductor manufacturing research consortium, is helping to fund the joint research program at Beta Squared's Allen, Texas, facility. Currently, International SEMATECH is generating an extensive database that will lead to an industry consensus on the next generation of lithography technology.
Today's chip manufacturing systems produce features as small as 0.25 microns, and next-generation optical lithography systems promise to produce features as small as 0.13 microns. The SCALPEL system, meanwhile, uses a beam of electrons, whose wavelength is much shorter than the ultraviolet light used in optical lithography, to print the 0.08-micron features.
Lucent Technologies, headquartered in Murray Hill, N.J., designs, builds and delivers a wide range of public and private networks, communications systems and software, data networking systems, business telephone systems and microelectronics components. Bell Laboratories is the research and development arm for the company. For more information on Lucent Technologies, visit the company's web site at http://www.lucent.com or the SCALPEL web site at http://www.bell-labs.com/project/SCALPEL.
Beta Squared is a wholly owned subsidiary of Photronics, Inc., a leading global supplier of photomask manufacturing technology and services. Beta Squared is headquartered in Allen, Texas, where it designs, builds and services a large installed base of plasma etch and wafer dry cleaning systems. Additional information about the company can be accessed at http://www.photronics.com.
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