"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 l
|Contact: Hannah Hickey|
University of Washington