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IBM Announces New Technology Designed To Reduce Chip Production Time And Costs

New Technology And Tool Repairs Nanoscale Defects In Lithographic Masks

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YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, NY - 03 Oct 2002: IBM today announced a new technology and tool for repairing nanoscale defects in lithographic masks. This technology is designed to help increase the yield of functioning integrated circuits, reduce their time to market, and cut their cost of production.

Today integrated circuits (IC) are produced by transferring a pattern on a photomask, or a quartz template containing images of integrated circuits, to a silicon wafer. Photomasks are integral to the printing of chips. As ICs have become more complex, the photomasks used to produce them have become disproportionately more difficult to fabricate. During the fabrication of photomasks, defects in the pattern occur that must be removed. IBM's mask repair tool is a breakthrough that enables the industry to produce perfect photomasks at the sub-100 nanometer ground rules.

IBM developed the mask repair tool in 2001 and started routinely using it in January 2002 at IBM's mask manufacturing facility in Burlington, VT. IBM will offer licenses of this tool to mask manufacturers worldwide.

IBM's new tool removes defects using ultrashort pulses of deep ultraviolet laser light. Pulses of laser light, 100 femtoseconds in duration (which is about the time it takes light to travel the width of a human hair), are used to repair chrome defects in a non-thermal process which produces exceptional spatial resolution without debris or glass damage. The resolution and quality of repairs made using this technology are significantly better than that achieved by other methods now in use. The processes developed by IBM produce repaired regions which are virtually indistinguishable from the otherwise pristine photomask substrate.

"Mask technology is a key enabler of leading edge lithography, which is essential in the production of semiconductor devices," said George Gomba, senior manager of advanced lithography development for IBM Research. "This new tool provides IBM with a solution unmatched in the industry, enabling IBM to continue leading the industry in lithography technology."

IBM's Lithography Developments
IBM has a long history as a leader in lithography, including photomask research and development. For example, IBM was the first company to introduce deep UV lithography into manufacturing. Also, IBM invented and was the first company to use chemically amplified resists in manufacturing. Both of these technologies are now ubiquitous in the industry.

The technical details of this new femtosecond mask repair tool are being presented this week at Photomask 2002 in Monterey, California, and the Optical Society of America Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida.

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