It took over 20 years of intensive joint development work but European companies and research institutes have finally introduced a revolutionary new manufacturing technology for mass-producing powerful microchips. By those in the business, it's been called EUV lithography.
EUV stands for extreme ultraviolet and it makes it possible to manufacture microchips that are much more powerful, energy-efficient, and affordable than ever before.
The new manufacturing process works with only 13.5 nanometers compared with leading optical lithography processes so far that have worked with light sources with a wavelength of 193 nanometers. Impressively enough, EUV has seen the introduction of chip structures 5,000 times thinner than a human hair.
But it's not exactly super new. Smartphones using this advanced technology have been available since the fall of 2019. But how were they developed?
A long development process
Companies ASML and TRUMPF designed a unique light source for this project. This consists of a plasma source developed by ASML where 50,000 droplets of tin per second are fired into a vacuum chamber and then further struck by two consecutive pulses from a high-power CO2 laser developed by TRUMPF.
"As a breakthrough innovation, EUV technology continues to enable major advances in digitization in business and society," said in a press release regarding the new tech Dr. Markus Weber, ZEISS Group (another partner in the project) Executive Board member and head of the Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology segment.
If you want to find out more about how EUV lithography came about visit ZEISS' site. This work has also garnered ZEISS, TRUMPF and thrid partner Fraunhofer the Deutscher Zukunftspreis 2020 award.
"We congratulate the researchers from ZEISS, TRUMPF, and the Fraunhofer IOF on this great award for their excellent work. In EUV lithography, they have developed a technology that will provide a digitalization push globally and by so doing also lays the foundation for further innovations," added Prof. Reimund Neugebauer, President of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.