From Fusion to MicrochipsCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: July 5, 2012 05:19PM
Modern electronics are made using a photolithographic system that etches circuitry into silicon using ultraviolet light. For now this method works quite well, but the 193 nm light is just too big to keep up with Moore's Law. Extreme-ultraviolet (EUV) light sources with a 13.5 nm wavelength will have to be developed for electronics to continue shrinking, but making this light is very difficult as it requires working with plasmas. Luckily some plasma researchers at the University of Washington have decided to take what they know from their fusion research to develop impressive EUV light sources.
Current systems to produce EVU emitting plasmas are only able to do so for about 20-50 nanoseconds, but the UW researchers were able to sustain a plasma for 20-50 microseconds, roughly 1000 times longer. To achieve this, the researchers used a design similar to theirs for fusion reactors that use a current to control the plasma, instead of giant magnets.
In order to market this new technique, the researchers have spun a company, Zplasma, off from the university. Hopefully it and other EUV systems will be able to expand into the industry before modern fabrication techniques hit their wall.