One Example of the Innovative Strength of ZEISS

Lithography Optics

Optical performance is key

Lithography optics in the Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology segment is one of the most technologically sophisticated and most innovative areas at ZEISS.

Optical lithography is one of the main processes in the fabrication of microchips. Lithography optics has thus been tasked with perfectly and flawlessly imaging the minimized structure of a photo mask on the wafer (this is used to create the microchips during further process stages). The resolving power of lithography optics helps determine how small the structures on a microchip can be.
The driver of the semiconductor industry is Moore’s law, which states that the number of transistors on a chip doubles roughly every two years. The law that Intel co-founder Gordon Moore came up with in 1965 has been in use for more than 40 years – not least because ZEISS has played a crucial role in making microchips increasingly more powerful, more energy-efficient and more cost-effective.

Developers are pushing the boundaries of physics

EUV lithography constitutes the next technological advance for the entire semiconductor industry. To create the microchip structure, extreme ultraviolet radiation with a wavelength of 13.5 nanometers is applied – compared with previous optics, this is a wavelength reduction factor of almost 15. This places new demands on the optical systems, where the ZEISS team is working at the limits of what is physically possible.

ZEISS has already been conducting research into EUV lithography for over 20 years – with an overall investment of several hundred million euros. ZEISS delivered the first serially manufactured EUV optics to its strategic partner ASML in 2012. Additional EUV generations with enhanced optical performance followed. ZEISS and ASML further deepened their collaboration to develop a completely new optical system for what is known as high-aperture EUV lithography.