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16. February 2024

MEGA-EUV – High-energy laser source for the inspection of microchips

DESY is cooperating with Class 5 Photonics, the University of Hamburg, Amphos and partners from the semiconductor industry as part of the “MEGA-EUV” project. The aim of the project is to develop a high-performance, extreme ultraviolet (EUV) beam source that will achieve up to a 1000-fold increase in throughput for the inspection of microchips.

Our connected digital world is being shaped by groundbreaking new technologies, including artificial intelligence, 5G, virtual reality, and integrated cloud services. There are already over 40 billion connected devices that are increasingly reliant on shared processing power and data storage. For energy- and cost-efficiency, it is indispensable to further reduce the size of transistors and microchips. This is achieved by state-of-the-art lithography with extreme ultraviolet radiation (EUV). High precision and speed must be achieved in this process, but there is a lack of correspondingly precise and rapid measuring systems to check lithography mask and chip quality.

The MEGA-EUV project is a collaboration between DESY, the University of Hamburg, the laser manufacturers Class 5 Photonics and Amphos, as well as partners from the semiconductor industry. The project focuses on the development of a high-power, extreme ultraviolet beam source with the aim to develop the world’s most powerful coherent table-top EUV source at a wavelength of 13.5 nanometers. The goal is to achieve up to a 1000-fold increase in throughput in the inspection of microchips manufactured using EUV lithography. Advanced high-performance laser technology using innovative methods is utilized for this purpose. To achieve this goal, powerful ytterbium Innoslab lasers (Amphos), systems for laser pulse post-compression (DESY), as well as new approaches to EUV production and imaging (Class 5 and the University of Hamburg) are all being employed. This opens potential fields of application in semiconductor production, materials processing, medical technology, and numerous scientific fields, such as microscopy and ultra-fast optics.

“With the MEGA-EUV project, we want to open up new fields of application for high-power laser sources and increase the social benefits of the technologies in industry and fundamental research,” says Christoph Heyl, who heads the project at DESY. “Thanks to the expanded inspection possibilities for microchips, the project can open up new perspectives in the chip industry and thus increase Germany’s competitiveness in this sector.”

Bastian Manschwetus, the head project manager at industry partner Class 5 Photonics, explains: “We have had EUV sources in our product range for some time. However, due to their low output power, their use was previously limited to scientific applications in materials research. With this project, we have found an ideal combination of market leaders in the laser industry and leading research groups that will greatly improve the capability of these light sources and open them up to a wider range of users.”

The project is being funded as part of the program “Neuartige photonische Werkzeuge für Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft – Laserbasierte Hochenergie-Strahlquellen“ of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with a total funding value of 3.6 million euros. With this funding initiative, the BMBF is pursuing the goal of supporting the transfer of innovative research results in the key technology photonics and thus making important contributions to innovative strength and competitiveness as well as to overcoming social challenges in the areas of health, digitalization, and sustainability.

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