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ABCs of failed litho

Don't expect R. Fabian Pease to mince his words. The Stanford University professor was in fine fettle as a plenary session speaker at this year's SPIE Microlithography event in San Jose. His talk, "Lithographic Technologies That Haven't (Yet) Made It—Lessons Learned," had the room rippling with laughter and bobbing with knowing nods.

Pease showed one slide in which he tried to pick a failed litho technology to fit every letter of the alphabet. The dozens listed included a handful crossed off or dotted-lined to indicate that they had "made it" or "probably will work." Not one to hide his own missteps, the good professor also showed those failed technologies that he had researched.

"What can be learned?" he asked. "To displace the old, the new must be 10 times better.  What do we mean by 'better'?" He explained that "better" must combine the ability to print the smallest features, with the best controlled feature size, best depth of focus, fastest throughput, and best overlay, and it must be the least costly in terms of capital and operating expenses per assured good pellicle. Pease sees nanoimprint as the only foreseeable replacement for optical.

In one barbed comment, Pease characterized Intel's sacred next-gen litho cow, EUVL, as "soft x-ray technology," calling it "the most egregious example of a wolf in sheep's clothing." A believer in using "wavefront engineering" to extend optical litho, he offered a "dangerous extrapolation" showing that the entire Intel production run of processors would be required for the needed computing power to do resolution-enhancement techniques in 2030—"just to put the resist edges in the right places!"

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