Computers, cars and mobile phones – microchips can now be found in practically all everyday devices. Silicon discs – wafers – various chemicals and metals, light and a mask, or the template for the circuits, are needed to manufacture these chips. It sounds easy, but it surely isn’t. The structures that will be “written” onto the wafer are extremely small.
How, then, is the structure of the circuits transferred to the wafer? A light-sensitive coating on the wafer –
the photo resist – is subjected to ultraviolet light in a stepper or scanner in a process in which the wafer is successively exposed. This all happens with nanometer accuracy. The advantage: the shorter the waves of the light beams, the more precise the work. And the smaller the chips and devices at the end. Carl Zeiss comes into play during exposure as the majority of machines around the world used to project the circuit structures onto the wafer – a process known as lithography – are equipped with lenses from Carl Zeiss.
Carl Zeiss is currently working on a new procedure to make it produce even smaller circuits: extreme ultraviolet light (EUV) will be used instead of the 193 nanometer wavelength to ensure that microchips, as well as all the electronic components, can become even smaller and cheaper – whether in a phone, a camera or at work. The next time you use an electronic device, you will know that Carl Zeiss has something to do with it.
September 9, 2008