Russian university pledges to build 7nm compatible Litho tools by 2028

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A Russian institute is developing its own lithography scanner that could produce chips using 7nm-class fabrication technologies. The machine is under development, with plans to build it by 2028. When ready, it should be more efficient than ASML’s Twinscan NXT:2000i tool, which took more than a decade.

After Russia launched its bloody war against Ukraine on February 24, Taiwan was quick to ban shipments of advanced chips to the country. The US, UK and EU then followed up with sanctions that effectively ban virtually all chipmakers under contract with advanced fabs from working with Russian entities. Additionally, companies like Arm cannot license their technologies to Russian-based chip designers. As a result, the Russian government has launched a national program to develop the country’s own 28nm-class manufacturing technology by 2030, reverse-engineer as many foreign chips as possible, and train local talent to work on domestic chips.

However, there is a problem with a 28nm class production node by 2030. The most advanced factory in Russia can produce chips using 65nm fabrication technology. Meanwhile, US and European manufacturing tool makers cannot supply their equipment to Russia due to sanctions, so the country must design and build domestic wafer production equipment if it wants to adopt a 28 nm node. Essentially, what took companies like ASML and Applied Materials decades to develop and iterate needs to be done in about eight years.

Apparently, the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Russian Institute of Applied Physics intends to exceed all expectations and produce a 7nm-capable lithography scanner by 2028, according to its plans published on the website of Nizhy Novgorod strategy development (via CNews).

A modern lithography scanner capable of processing wafers using 7nm class process technology is a very complex device that involves a high performance light source, sophisticated optics and precise metrology, to name a few. some critical elements. However, as a leading applied physics university in Russia, IAP believes that it can develop such a tool in a relatively short time.

The tool will be somewhat different from scanners produced by companies like ASML or Nikon. For example, IAP plans to use a light source > 600 W (full power, no intermediate focal power) with an exposure wavelength of 11.3 nm (EUV wavelength is 13.5 nm), which will require considerably more sophisticated optics than exist today. Since the device’s light source will be of relatively low power, this will make the tool more compact and easier to build. Yet this also means that its scanner output will be considerably lower than that of modern deep ultraviolet (DUV) tools. That could now be a problem, according to IAP.

“ASML, the world leader in lithography, has been developing its EUV lithography system for nearly 20 years and the technology has proven to be incredibly complex,” said Nikolai Chkhalo, Deputy Director of the Institute of Microstructural Physics at the Russian Academy of Sciences. for scientific and technological development. “ASML’s main goal in this case was to maintain the extremely high productivity that is needed only in the largest factories in the world. In Russia, no one needs such high productivity. In our work , we start from the needs and tasks faced by microelectronics – and it is not so much a question of quantity, but of quality.First of all, we must move to our own manufacturing processes, develop our own standards of design, our own tools, engineering, materials, so our own path is inevitable here. In fact, we have to find a balance between simplicity and performance.”

IAP plans to build a fully functional alpha scanner by 2024. This will not have to offer high productivity or maximum resolution but will have to work and be attractive to potential investors. IAP intends to build a beta version of the scanner with higher productivity and resolution by 2026. This machine should be ready for mass production, but its productivity should not be maximized. The last iteration of the litho scanner should see the light of day in 2028. It should have an efficient light source (hence better productivity), better metrology and excessive capacities. It is unclear how many of these machines IAP and/or its production partners will be able to produce by 2028.

It should be noted that fab equipment is not limited to lithography scanners. There are other types of machines performing etching, deposition, resist removal, metrology and inspection operations that are not made in Russia. In addition, there are somewhat less advanced machines such as ultrapure air and water generators which are also not produced in Russia. Even if IAP RAS manages to build a lithography tool, Russia will still be a few hundred tools away from building a modern fab. Additionally, fabs need ultra-pure raw materials produced in countries that won’t supply to Russia.

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