In 1965, Gordon Moore, who would later go on to co-found Intel, acknowledged that integrated circuits would greatly improve our electronics. An integrated circuit is a combination of several electronic components, including transistors, that make up a single microchip used to power electronic devices.
Moore predicted that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every two years because of regular improvements in microchip manufacturing, allowing our devices to consistently get better. This prediction became known as Moore’s Law, and since 1965, advancements in microchips have enabled phone makers to pack additional features into new devices.
There are billions of transistors on the latest chips, and this growth has brought huge advances in computing power. The manufacturing process that makes this possible is called photolithography, which means printing with light. This process in chip manufacturing sends laser light through a patterned piece of glass called a photomask and transfers that pattern onto a wafer where the microchips are printed. For this process to work properly, high-quality, optical materials are needed that can help control the light.
Corning supplies optical materials, components, and systems that enable the high-tech devices we use every day to function efficiently. Because of these products, we have devices that are faster, thinner, more lightweight, and smarter with a longer lasting battery. From raw materials to full systems, Corning’s products are embedded and critical at nearly every step of the chip manufacturing process, and hundreds of millions of devices are manufactured using our products every year. Corning has been a trusted industry supplier for more than 50 years.
The raw materials Corning supplies that are embedded into lithography machines include fluoride crystal materials like Corning® Calcium Fluoride (CaF2) and Corning® Magnesium Fluoride (MgF2) and glass materials like HPFS® (High Purity Fused Silica) and ULE® (Ultra-low Expansion Glass). Corning is a world leader in ultra-pure, performance advantaged materials suitable for advanced lithography. Attributes such as material durability, high transmission, and low coefficient of thermal expansion make them the idea materials to transmit light from a lithography machine’s light source to the semiconductor wafer.
Each of our materials have unique attributes that help manage light for photolithography processes. Corning’s CaF2 has unmatched durability to withstand the high energy levels of deep UV lasers. Corning’s HPFS® is an ultra-pure material that is perfect for making illumination and imaging optics with the most stringent imaging performance, and Corning’s ULE® is an ultra-stable material that can retain its shape and imaging performance in the challenging thermal environment of an EUV stepper.
In addition to our raw materials, Corning also manufactures complex lens systems that are used for inspection, metrology, mask writing, and lithography. These systems solve many of our customers’ most challenging imaging problems, with custom solutions to address needs for high numerical apertures, large fields sizes, and deep UV wavelengths. Our products and the applications that they serve are integral to the semiconductor manufacturing process.
Corning leverages core expertise in optical physics to provide industry-leading solutions for measurement and qualification of surface form. Our complete line of metrology instruments measure surfaces for flatness, parallelism, height, depth, surface finish, roughness, and thickness. These systems are used to measure the flatness of two main components for lithography applications: the photomask and the wafer. As transistor density increases over time, the focus tolerance gets smaller and smaller requiring flatter and flatter masks and wafers. Corning supplies the full systems to ensure these components are perfectly flat.
As Moore’s Law continues, the semiconductor manufacturing industry is transitioning from the current machinery to a new type of lithography process called EUV, or extreme ultraviolet lithography. EUV systems are designed to use a smaller wavelength than ever before. This next-generation manufacturing method will allow for even more transistors on chips and is being developed now for high volume use by 2020. This means that our devices will continue to get faster, smarter, and use less power. Corning is uniquely suited to provide solutions for next-generation EUV lithography technology, and by doing so, we are enabling smaller, more complex chips that make mobile consumer electronics and Internet of Things (IoT) applications possible.