Improved chip technology
Bell Labs researchers in Murray Hill, NJ, have used an electron-beam system to print 250-atom-wide microchip features--four times smaller than can be achieved with current chip-manufacturing techniques. The demonstration suggests that chip manufacturers may be able to pack more devices onto chips, even after current manufacturing technologies have reached their fundamental limits, which will likely happen by the year 2005.
"With current technologies," says Lloyd Harriott, head of the Bell Labs` research team, "Chip designs ultimately will be limited by the wavelength of the ultraviolet light used to print features on silicon."
By contrast, the new system, known as Scalpel, uses high-energy electron beams to expose patterns on silicon wafers. Because the electrons` wavelength is a million times smaller than that of ultraviolet light, it is possible to print smaller line widths, permitting the manufacture of faster, more-powerful devices. Harriott observes, "The Scalpel system is the first working electron-beam system that can produce feature lines at 0.08-micron widths. We have successfully demonstrated the concept of electron-beam lithography."