One of the most technologically advanced and innovative areas of Carl Zeiss is lithography optics, the basic technology used for the production of microchips.
Lithography: the key process in microchip fabrication. The performance of the optical system plays a decisive role. It has the task of delivering a 100 percent aberration-free, reduced image of the mask structure to the wafer.
The driver of the chip industry is Moore's law, which states that the number of transistors on a chip doubles roughly every two years. The law that Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, formulated back in 1965 has been valid for more than 40 years – not least because Carl Zeiss has played a crucial role in constantly reducing the size of the tiny transistors on the chips.
The entire chip industry must make a quantum leap in technology for further progress to be made. The wavelength needed for chip exposure must be reduced by more than a factor of ten. In the future, short-wave radiation, i.e. Extreme Ultra Violet or EUV (13.5 nanometers) will be used.This places in new demands on the optical systems, requiring developers at Carl Zeiss to constantly push the boundaries of physics.
The company has been working on EUV lithography for more than 15 years. It has invested, and will continue to invest, nine figure sums in this future-oriented technology.
In 2007, the company's efforts were rewarded with a nomination for the German Future Prize – the German President's award for technology and innovation.