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ASML HIGH NA EAU MACHINE

WHY IN NEWS?

  • Recently ASML unveiled its new semiconductor manufacturing ‘High NA EUV’ machine.

MORE ABOUT THE MACHINE:

  • The new machine costs about $350 million (₹2,900 crore) per unit and is as big as a double decker bus.
  • It uses extreme ultraviolet (EUV) photolithography, a next-generation technology, to make the semiconductors.
  • To prevent reverse-engineering, ASML is not allowed to sell its lithography machines to China along with other components.
  • ASML’s High NA EUV (extreme ultraviolet) lithography is a significant leap forward in chip manufacturing technology.

ABOUT HIGH NA EUV LITHOGRAPHY:

Here are some key points about ASML High NA EUV:

  • Increased numerical aperture (NA): The “NA” in the name stands for numerical aperture, which is a measure of an optical system’s ability to collect and focus light.

ASML High NA EUV systems have an NA of 0.55, compared to 0.33 for NXE systems. This increase in NA allows for higher resolution patterning, which is essential for making smaller and more powerful transistors.

  • Novel optics design: The higher NA of ASML High NA EUV is achieved through a novel optics design that includes larger mirrors. These larger mirrors are able to collect more light and focus it onto a smaller area, resulting in higher resolution.
  • Faster stages: ASML High NA EUV systems also have significantly faster wafer and reticle stages. This is important for improving throughput, which is the number of wafers that can be processed per unit time.
  • First system shipped in December 2023: The first ASML High NA EUV system was shipped to Intel in December 2023. The system is currently being used for process development, and it is expected to be used in high-volume manufacturing in 2025-2026.

HOW IT IS DIFFERENT FROM EARLIER CHIP MANUFACTURING MACHINES?

  • Moulding the smallest feature size on the silicon wafer is governed by a physics principle called the Rayleigh scattering criterion.
  • As in most cases, engineers have reduced the smallest size imprinted on the wafer by reducing the wavelength of the light shined on the photoresist.
  • Around four decades ago, chip-manufacturing companies used light of wavelength 436 nanometres (nm).
  • The latest machines uses 13.5 nm light, which lies in the extreme-ultraviolet (EUV) part of the electromagnetic spectrum.
  • Just before the EUV machines, chip-manufacturers relied on deep UV light (193 nm wavelength) to project intricate patterns onto the wafers.

HOW DOES EUV PRODUCES LIGHT?

  • First of all, a gun shoots a spherical droplet of liquid tin, around 50 micrometres wide, at nearly 300 km/hr into the machine.
  • During the process, a laser strikes the tin and deforms its shape into a pancake.
  • This tin pancake is still in fight when another intense laser beam strikes it, transforming it into a hot, ionised gas with a temperature 40-times higher than that on the surface of the Sun.
  • At this point, the gas emits EUV light that the machine collects for use.
  • This entire process from the gun to the emission happens 50,000-times per second to produce EUV light of sufficient intensity.
  • Thus the guns shoot 50,000 tin droplets per second and there are twice as many laser shots to modify it.
  • This process occurs in a vacuum because virtually anything, even air, absorbs EUV radiation, leaving less for the machine.

FUTURE POTENTIAL OF HIGH NA EUV MACHINE:

  • It is expected to be used for several future chip generations, starting with the 2nm logic node and memory nodes.
  • It will also enable the development of even more powerful and sophisticated devices, such as next-generation smartphones, artificial intelligence systems, and high-performance computing applications.

WAY FORWARD:

  • ASML High NA EUV as a major breakthrough in chip manufacturing technology will enable the continued miniaturization of transistors, which will lead to the development of faster, more powerful, and more energy-efficient chips.

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