The semiconductor industry supports the production of microchips
Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology

Optical lithography from ZEISS SMT

With precision for digitalization

EUV technologies: Digitalization makes self-driving cars possible - here is shown the microchip structure lightes

Light for the digital age

Microchips play a crucial role in our everyday lives – because most of the devices we use every day contain at least one microprocessor: computers, smartphones, cars even our refrigerators. Light and lithography optical goods from ZEISS Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology (SMT) play a decisive role in the production of microchips.

How microchips are made

The manufacturing process in the video

Manufacturing process of microchips at SMT in individual steps

Optical lithography: How microchips are made

In simple terms, countless grains of sand turn into microchips in a high-precision process. The key ingredients: light and the projection optics for ZEISS SMT's production of semiconductors.

The photolithography used to produced logic and memory chips is a multi-stage process. During the exposure process, in the wafer stepper, the structure of a photomask is projected onto a light-sensitive layer of a silicon wafer coated with photoresist. Wafers are round discs with – industry standard – a diameter of 300 millimeters. The light changes the chemistry of the resist layer, so that the exposed parts can later be removed by means of etching. The structure of the conductor paths on the wafer is exposed and the remaining photoresist layer is removed. After numerous further processing steps, the wafer contains several thousand semiconductor chips. Before micrometer-thin saw blades separate the microchips, the wafers are inspected with solutions from ZEISS SMT.  The microchips (more precisely memory, graphics processing units (GPU) and microprocessors (CPU)) form the basis for numerous technological devices and technological advances.

Lithography optics from ZEISS

Overview of different lieghtes structures of a microchip and a bright light at the end

Light of the future

Microchips that are increasingly smaller, more powerful and more energy-efficient: this is the basis for digitalization. To achieve this, the structures of the chip must become progressively finer. This can only be achieved by making the wavelength of the light used shorter and shorter and the optical systems and components used increasingly more accurate. A challenge that ZEISS SMT has been facing for more than 50 years with its lithography optics.

Moore's Law

Smaller, more powerful and more energy-efficient

In 1965, an article by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore appeared in the magazine "Electronics". Based on the available data from previous years, he described how the number of electronic components of an integrated circuit doubles every two years. This also means that the transistor density doubles – and with it, also the performance of the microchips. His observation became known as Moore's Law:

Gordon Moore's profile

The number of transistors that fit into a fixed-size integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years.

Moore's Law according to Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel

Course of the transistor theory by Gordon Moore

Moore's Law lives on

The development in optical lithography follows this law to this day – and it looks set to continue to do so. Since the 1960s, ZEISS has set the pace when it comes to constantly pushing the limits of what is technologically possible. In order continue writing Gordon Moore's law and, together with strategic partner ASML, to enable chip manufacturers worldwide to develop tomorrow's technologies today.

Precise optics are part of the ZEISS DNA

Precise optics are part of ZEISS' DNA - and crucial to updating Moore's Law. Company founder Carl Zeiss specialized in the production of microscopes. His partner was the physicist Ernst Abbe, who formulated the eponymous resolution theory.

Formula of Abbe's theory of resolution

Abbe's theory of resolution

The achievable resolution of optics with lenses and mirrors can be calculated using this formula. It clearly shows that the shorter the wavelength of the light used, the better the resolution. The higher the numerical aperture, the finer the structures. High-precision exposure systems from ZEISS SMT are required in order to achieve wavelengths of up to 193 nanometers for DUV technology and 13.5 nanometers for EUV technology.

Watch out the videos about optical lithography from our experts

ZEISS Autumn School

ZEISS is the technology leader

ZEISS SMT is the global technology leader in the field of optical lithography, making it an enabler for the semiconductor industry. We are taking Moore's Law to the next level with our optics for DUV and EUV technology. Find out more here.

SMT Contact

Feel free to contact us

Form is loading...

For further information on data processing at ZEISS please refer to our  data privacy notice.

Optional information