AL 2012 – Day 2

Quick progress in DSA, slow progress in EUV.


There is no place I’d rather be on Valentine’s Day than in San Jose surrounded by my friends and colleagues in lithography.  No wait, I didn’t mean that.  I miss my wife and two young daughters.  I don’t like traveling without them.

While Valentine’s Day is the Hallmark holiday I despise the most, it does serve to remind me of the conflicted feelings of most business travelers who have families.  Over the years I have missed holidays and birthdays and uncountable little things in the lives of the people I love most.  I have also been to interesting and exotic places, met great people (many of whom have become lifelong friends), and worked on fun and intellectually satisfying projects.  Mostly, I’ve been able to keep these things in balance during the various phases of my life, and for that I am grateful.  While popular culture celebrates those who live their lives in the extreme, the wise know that happiness and success is about balance.

But there is no balance this week.  This week is non-stop, metal to the floor, take no prisoners lithography.  Tuesday began with papers at 8am and the last panel ended at 9pm, with for me a lunch meeting and poster session in lieu of dinner thrown in as well.  I ran constantly from session to session (trying not miss the most interesting papers), and constantly ran into colleagues I see only once each year (trying to remember their names while not looking down at their badges).  I ended the day with a shot of Jameson’s at Original Joe’s, tired but satisfied.

I also had two papers, one oral and one poster.  Luckily, I had them both prepared well in advance.  (People that know me are laughing out loud right now.)  In truth, the stress and adrenaline of just-in-time presenting makes this conference even more exciting, though I swear every year that this year will be the last time I am so disorganized.  Now if only I could finish my talk for tomorrow…

I saw many interesting papers of the solid, incremental advancement type – the lifeblood of this conference.  I criticized a few of them, mostly for failing to learn the lessons I’ve already learned and repeating the mistakes other authors have already made.  Nobody can read and absorb the entire literature and history of an industry, which is why the format of conference presentation is so valuable.  The communication and teaching is two-way.  You tell the audience what you have done and learned in the hopes of teaching them, and they give you feedback as to how that fits within the community’s vast knowledge base.  The bigger and more diverse the audience, the better.  But make no mistake, baring your technical soul for inspection is a scary thing, especially for the many young folks presenting here for the first time.  I congratulate each author for their mettle – success is in the doing.

My sense of the mood at the conference is one of disappointment with the progress of EUV lithography.  Roadmaps are slipping because of source power.  Progress in line-edge roughness reduction is almost nonexistent.  The major ASML papers on EUV progress are yet to come.

While everyone is excited about directed self-assembly (there are 55 DSA talks this year, compared to 20 last year), there are still many unknowns.  I suspect, however, that a first application of DSA is emerging that could jumpstart its transition from lab to fab: contact hole shrinking.  After exposing the contact holes to be bigger than we want them, DSA polymers coat the inside of the hole, both shrinking them and healing most of their roughness.  A neat trick.  While this approach does nothing to improve contact hole pitch, it looks like an important and valuable tool for printing one of the most difficult lithography layers.

My favorite quote of the day:  “What does not change in lithography is change.” – Tatsuhiko Higashiki, Toshiba.  My favorite new acronym: InStED Lithography (Interference Stimulated Emission Deactivation Lithography) – John Petersen.


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