HP and Nanolithosolutions have announced they have a new machine that enables manufacturers to produce semiconductor chips with wires that are only a few atoms wide:
And the device takes only a few minutes to install.
The machine is a system for imprint lithography. Imprint lithography sounds like what it is: A mold with an intricate pattern is pressed into a substrate, which creates a pattern. The grooves and channels created in the substrate are then filled with metal to make wires.
What makes imprint lithography different from a waffle iron or a rubber stamp are the dimensions. The HP-Nanolitho system is capable of creating grooves that will measure as small as 15 nanometers, smaller than the width of wires in today's chip. The mold, or module, does not make grooves in silicon, but in a thin layer of polymer on top of the silicon.
But just as important as the width of the grooves it creates, the system can be incorporated easily into conventional chipmaking processes, the companies said. The mold, or module, is the same size as the mask aligner, a piece of machinery used to create circuit patterns in chips today. (The module also contains a pneumatic engine that presses the mold into the wafer.) Thus, chipmakers will not have to retrofit their labs to begin experimenting with the machine, which eases the adoption cycle.