Carl Zeiss and the Fabrication of Microchips

Did You Know…

…ZEISS is Involved in the Fabrication of Microchips?

Whether in computers, cars or mobile phones – microchips can now be found in practically all everyday devices. Producing these chips requires silicon discs, or “wafers,” various chemicals and metals, light, and a mask, which functions as a template for the circuits. That sounds simple, but it isn’t. This is because the structures that are to be “written” on the wafer are extremely tiny.

How then is the structure of the circuits mapped to the wafer? A light-sensitive coating known as photoresist on the wafer is subjected to ultraviolet light in a “stepper” or “scanner” in a process that successively exposes the wafer. And this all happens to an accuracy of a millionth of a millimeter (nanometer). The advantage? The shorter the wavelengths of the light beams, the greater the precision of the work, and the smaller the chips and devices will be in the end. ZEISS is involved with the exposure process here, since the majority of machines around the world used to project circuit structures onto wafers – a process referred to as lithography – are equipped with objective lenses made by ZEISS.

ZEISS is currently working on a new procedure that will enable even smaller circuits to be mapped: instead of the 193 nanometer wavelength, extreme ultraviolet light (EUV) will be used to allow microchips, along with all the electronic components, to become even smaller and cheaper – whether in your mobile phone, your camera, or at your workplace. The next time you use an electronic device, you’ll remember that ZEISS had a hand in it.

8 September 2008