DARPA wants to harness nanotechnology for chip making

A team headed by Lucent Technologies Inc. of Murray Hills, N.J., will use nanotechnology to develop a system for fabricating next-generation silicon chips for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The team will design, develop and demonstrate micro-electro-mechanical systems able to produce finer etching on integrated circuit chips at greater speeds.

The four-year contract, valued at $9.5 million, was awarded by the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center at San Diego.

The process will use spatial light modulators, which modulate the intensity of an optical beam to a specified pattern. The MEMS SLM to be used in the DARPA program was developed by Lucent's Bell Labs using nanofabrication. Arrays of tiny mirrors focus light on the target integrated chip material to etch the patterns for circuits.

The new MEMS will contain 10 times more individual movable micromirrors than currently available, each five times smaller. Because of the reduced size of the mirrors, less demagnification is required on the optical beam being projected, letting the system work 10 to 50 times faster when producing features as small as 50 nanometers.

The 50nm dimensions are critical in enabling the next generation of integrated circuits.

The team includes Corning Tropel Corp. of Fairport, N.Y.; DuPont PhotoMasks Inc. of Round Rock, Texas; and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratories. The work is being done in conjunction with ASM Lithography Holding NV of the Netherlands.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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