Navigation Links
Plasma startup creates high-energy light to make smaller microchips

A University of Washington lab has been working for more than a decade on fusion energy, harnessing the energy-generating mechanism of the sun. But in one of the twists of scientific discovery, on the way the researchers found a potential solution to a looming problem in the electronics industry.

To bring their solution to market two UW engineers have launched a startup, Zplasma, that aims to produce the high-energy light needed to etch the next generation of microchips.

"In order to get smaller feature sizes on silicon, the industry has to go to shorter wavelength light," said Uri Shumlak, a UW professor of aeronautics and astronautics. "We're able to produce that light with enough power that it can be used to manufacture microchips."

The UW beam lasts up to 1,000 times longer than competing technologies and provides more control over the million-degree plasma that produces the light.

For more than four decades the technology industry has kept up with Moore's Law, a prediction that the number of transistors on a computer chip will double every two years. This trend has allowed ever-smaller, faster, lighter and less energy-intensive electronics. But it's hit a roadblock: the 193-nanometer ultraviolet light now being used cannot etch circuits any smaller.

The industry has determined that the future standard for making microchips will be 13.5-nanometer light, a wavelength less than 1/14 the current size that should carry the industry for years to come. Such extreme ultraviolet light can be created only from plasmas, which are high-temperature, electrically charged gases in which electrons are stripped from their nuclei. The electronics industry is trying to produce this extreme ultraviolet light in various ways. One takes a droplet of tin and shoots it with a laser to make plasma that releases a brief spark of light. But so far this spark is too brief. Chip manufacturers use a $100 million machine to bounce light off a series of mirrors and eventually project the light onto a silicon wafer; each step absorbs some of the light's energy.

"Over the past decade, the primary issue with these extreme ultraviolet light sources is they just can't produce enough power," Shumlak said. "It's a stumbling block for the whole semiconductor industry."

Fusion scientists, it turns out, are plasma experts. The hydrogen plasma in the sun is so hot that hydrogen nuclei fuse together and release energy. Scientists around the world, including at the UW, are working to replicate this on Earth. A fusion reactor would use hydrogen as its fuel and emit helium as a waste product, a technically challenging

but clean source of energy. The UW group's specialty is a lower-cost version of a fusion reactor that uses currents flowing through the material, rather than giant magnets, to contain the million-degree plasma. Their method also produces plasma that is stable and long-lived.

"It's a completely different way to make the plasma that gives you much more control," said Brian Nelson, a UW research associate professor of electrical engineering.

The first time they triggered the experiment in 1999, an engineer looking through the glass said, "That was really bright!" That was when the proverbial light bulb went off, Nelson said, and the team began to explore applications for bright high-energy light.

They may have found that application in the microchip industry. Light produced through techniques now being considered by the chip industry generate a spark that lasts just 20 to 50 nanoseconds. Zplasma's light beam lasts 20 to 50 millionths of a second, about 1,000 times longer.

"That translates directly into more light output, more power depositing on the wafer, such that you can move it through in some reasonable amount of time," Shumlak said.

An initial grant from the UW's Center for Commercialization allowed the team to verify that it could produce 13.5-nanometer light. A gift last fall from the Washington Research Foundation helped the team shrink the equipment from the size of a broomstick to a new version the size of a pin, which can produce a sharp beam.

The company was established last year with help from the UW's Center for Commercialization and Henry Berg, a technology entrepreneur who met the researchers through the center's Entrepreneurs in Residence program. Berg is now CEO of Zplasma.

The company is seeking "smart money" from corporate investors who can integrate the new technology with existing industrial processes.

"I hope this gets implemented into the industry and has an impact," Shumlak said.

The group will continue its fusion research project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Raymond Golingo, a UW research scientist in aeronautics and astronautics, is co-author of the patent for the technology issued in 2008.


Contact: Hannah Hickey
University of Washington

Related biology technology :

1. Handheld plasma flashlight rids skin of notorious pathogens
2. Plasma etching pushes the limits of a shrinking world
3. QB3-Industry Biotech Startup Partnership Funds Two Projects
4. Global Cleantech Cluster Association Names New York City Startup Rentricity to Global Top 10 List
5. Rising Interest of Big Pharma Creates Immense Growth Potential for Contract Manufacturing Organisations, Says Frost & Sullivan
6. Harvards Wyss Institute creates living human gut-on-a-chip
7. All the colors of a high-energy rainbow, in a tightly focused beam
8. Lightning Brewery’s Craft Beer Old Tempestuous Ale Wins Best of Show at 2012 California State Fair Commercial Brewing Competition
9. Graphene Research: Trapping light in a carbon net
10. Taming light with graphene
11. Quantum dots brighten the future of lighting
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Plasma startup creates high-energy light to make smaller microchips
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... InSphero AG, the leading supplier ... models, has promoted Melanie Aregger to serve as Chief Operating Officer. , ... the management team and was promoted to Head of InSphero Diagnostics in ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 2015 /CNW Telbec/ - ProMetic Life Sciences Inc. (TSX: PLI) ... Pierre Laurin , President and Chief Executive Officer of ... Piper Jaffray 27 th Annual Healthcare Conference to be ... 2015. st , at 8.50am (ET) and ... the day. The presentation will be available live via a ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015 HemoShear ... on discovering drugs for metabolic disorders, announced today ... to its Board of Directors (BOD). Mr. Watkins ... of Human Genome Sciences (HGS), and also served ... Jim Powers , Chairman and CEO ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... YORK , November 24, 2015 ... in a European healthcare ... which the companies will work closely together in identifying European ... unmet medical need. The collaboration is underpinned by a significant ... fund. This is the first investment by Bristol-Myers Squibb in ...
Breaking Biology Technology:
(Date:11/4/2015)... 2015 --> ... by Transparency Market Research "Home Security Solutions Market - Global ... - 2022", the global home security solutions market is expected to ... The market is estimated to expand at a CAGR ... 2022. Rising security needs among customers at homes, the ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... , Oct. 29, 2015  Rubicon Genomics, ... for U.S. distribution of its DNA library preparation ... and Rubicon,s new ThruPLEX Plasma-seq kit. ThruPLEX Plasma-seq ... the preparation of NGS libraries for liquid biopsies--the ... diagnostic and prognostic applications in cancer and other ...
(Date:10/27/2015)... 27, 2015 Munich, Germany ... Mapping technology (ASGM) automatically maps data from mobile eye ... , so that they can be quantitatively analyzed ... Munich, Germany , October 28-29, 2015. SMI,s ... from mobile eye tracking videos created with SMI,s ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):