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When it comes to Moore’s law these days, it seems like everyone’s a cynic. However, now there’s one more reason to be optimistic about the future of miniaturization, as researchers have published a paper describing a lithography technique which may provide a new means of producing chip features smaller than 32nm.
The technique involves the use of quasiparticles called plasmons to focus light at an incredibly high resolution. Chris Lee at Ars Technica describes the technology: “A lens, based on plasmons, can be created by a set of concentric metal rings. The fields from the plasmons in each ring act in such a way as to create a tightly focused spot of light. In principle, these lenses could focus light tightly enough to create features about five to ten nanometers in size.”
The problem with plasmon lenses is that they must be positioned at just 20 nm away from the wafer. The scientists claim to have overcome this hurdle with their new technique, which uses air pressure to control the lens’s distance from the wafer.
Significantly, the new technique eliminates the need to create a new photomask for each revision to the chip, potentially lowering costs and speeding up development.