At the Wednesday morning session of the Polymers for Enabling Nanoscale Patterning symposium, C Grant Willson came to bury 157 nm lithography, not to praise it… and extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography got the adjacent plot. Although there are technological challenges to face, Willson argued that physics and chemistry would not be the problem – it’s the economics, stupid.
He used a comparison with commercial aviation to highlight his point. Making faster airplanes isn’t all that difficult; making money from them is – where’s Concorde now? Just as commercial aviation has reached a speed plateau and seeks to expand by changing other variables such as capacity (see the humongous Airbus A380), so the drive to use smaller and smaller wavelengths for photolithography is no longer the focus of the semiconductor industry. Techniques to improve the resolution of established 193 nm lithography – such as immersion lithography – may be the way forward.
Willson then went on to discuss imprint lithography techniques, such as his step-and-flash nanoimprint lithography, which set the scene for the rest of the session. Although it is quite clear that optical lithography is the current standard, nanoimprint lithography seems set to make a big impression.
Stuart Cantrill (Associate Editor, Nature Nanotechnology)