Microchips in the Spotlight

Light: The Basic Enabler of Modern Communication

Photo: Working on a testing device for photomasks with optics from ZEISS (Source: ZEISS)

Smartphones, cameras, laptops: without these electronic devices, life as we know it is practically unimaginable. Larger and larger volumes of data can now be stored and transmitted. Light forms the basis of modern information and communication technology. Its applications extend from data transfer using optical fibers in fiber optic cables through the storage and processing of data on microchips.

ZEISS technologies play a key role in the manufacturing of powerful microchips. In an exposure method known as lithography, focused light beams are used to generate tiny structures on the microchips. For this process, photomasks that contain all the information required to produce the final circuits must firstly be produced. In a procedure carried out inside a wafer scanner, light is transmitted through the photomask onto the "wafer" – a silicon disk with a photo-active lacquer. Using a ZEISS lens, the structures on the mask are demagnified by a factor of four. Following exposure, the wafer is developed like an analog film. The lacquer on the exposed parts of the wafer disintegrates during this process. As a result, these tiny areas are conductive, meaning that they can act as a basis for circuits.

ZEISS technologies are also used in process inspection in the semiconductor industry. As the photomasks contain all relevant data that has to be transferred onto the wafers, they must be free from any critical defects. This is the only way they can be used to make fully-functioning chips. Solutions from ZEISS allow defects on masks to be reliably analyzed and repaired with sub-nanometer accuracy. And all with the aid of light!

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More information about the topic: About photomask systems by ZEISS