Single Crystal Technologies, LLC (SCT) announced new technology that will increase output yields of crystals such as Calcium Fluoride (CaF2), which are crucial to making next-generation chips. Today's crystal growers only achieve at best about 5% yields of CaF2, making it very expensive to produce significant numbers of usable crystals. Increased yields will enable semiconductor makers to pack their designs into chips less than half the size of current mass-produced chips.
SCT made its announcement after solidifying patent coverage of core enabling materials technology that will bring methods of crystal growth for semiconductors into the 21st Century. The industry has reached a consensus that chips based on 157 nanometer light wavelengths will be needed to make next-generation chips. At 157 nanometer wavelengths, current photolithographic materials are opaque and the light can no longer pattern circuits onto silicon wafers for chips.
Optical crystals like CaF2 can create semiconductor patterns down to 0.05 microns - less than half of today's best mass-produced 0.13-micron chips. But until now, CaF2 crystals have been prohibitively expensive to produce and not available in quantities sufficient to meet today's market needs, much less projected peak demands as the industry completes its migration to 157nm. Alternative approaches, such as X-Ray lithography or extreme ultraviolet (EUV) light, carry very high cost of ownership, require extensive retooling of fabrication facilities, and are years away from leaving the lab.
Today's chip technology uses crystal growth methods introduced in the late 1920's that were never intended for heat-insulating materials such as CaF2. SCT innovations overcome this key obstacle to the industry's agreed-upon Technology Roadmap, which calls for a shift to 157nm wavelengths using CaF2 to extend current photolithographic techniques.
The result of about 20 years of research by Dr. Kiril A. Pandelisev, this patented new technology will have far-reaching effects:
� SCT's innovative material purification techniques will triple the usable yield of crystals, even using current production methods - a significant competitive advantage for manufacturers employing the Bridgman-Stockbarger method.
� Used with SCT's patented plate growth technology, production of critically needed, usable CaF2 crystals of any required size will increase by several orders of magnitude, making mass production of 157nm photolithography-based chips economical for the first time.
� Provide the basis for new photolithography equipment currently limited by quality and size of the CaF2 crystal available.
� Semiconductor development can continue to follow "Moore's Law," named for Intel cofounder Gordon Moore, who observed that the number of features in a given area of silicon chip roughly doubles every 18 months.
� As smaller, faster chips using less power come onto the market, new applications will be found for them and capabilities will dramatically improve within existing markets such as cellular phones and palm-top computers, whose makers have been awaiting the next step in chip development.
"Many problems we've encountered were nontrivial, and materials technology is often as much art as science," commented Dr. Pandelisev. "Fortunately, the answers to critical questions about CaF2 purification and crystal growth have now been answered by our discoveries. Not only will we have test quantities of CaF2 crystal available in the first quarter of 2002, we expect that other applied materials will greatly be impacted by this groundbreaking process."
SCT's initial production will establish CaF2 as a practicable option for semiconductor equipment manufacturers like ASML, Ultratech Stepper, Canon and Nikon, which supply chipmakers like Intel, IBM, Motorola and AMD. All are aggressively pursuing a technology roadmap that depends on achieving 157nm photolithography and overcoming the critical hurdles presented by CaF2.
Single Crystal Technologies (SCT, LLC), headquartered in Gilbert, AZ, has developed a groundbreaking method of purifying and growing single-crystal materials through patent-protected materials technology, including enhanced methods of purification that can potentially triple standard crystal production yields. It also encompasses innovative methods of crystal growth that will revolutionize an industry still dependent on methods first introduced in the 1920's. SCT has initially focused on CaF2 material, though the results of this technology will later be expanded to a range of other industries including military, aerospace, medical imaging and specialized sensors, among others. All SCT United States patents have been extended internationally. More information is available at http://www.sct-llc.com .