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Microscopy technique could help computer industry develop 3-D components

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Posted June 27, 2013
These three-dimensional tri-gate (FinFET) transistors are among the 3-D microchip structures that could be measured using through-focus scanning optical microscopy (TSOM). Credit: NIST

These three-dimensional tri-gate (FinFET) transistors are among the 3-D microchip structures that could be measured using through-focus scanning optical microscopy (TSOM). Credit: NIST

A technique developed several years ago at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for improving optical microscopes now has been applied to monitoring the next generation of computer chip circuit components, potentially providing the semiconductor industry with a crucial tool for improving chips for the next decade or more.

The technique, called Through-Focus Scanning Optical Microscopy (TSOM), has now been shown able to detect tiny differences in the three-dimensional shapes of circuit components, which until very recently have been essentially two-dimensional objects. TSOM is sensitive to features that are as small as 10 nanometers (nm) across, perhaps smaller—addressing some important industry measurement challenges for the near future for manufacturing process control and helping maintain the viability ofoptical microscopy in electronics manufacturing.

For decades, computer chips have resembled city maps in which components are essentially flat. But as designers strive to pack more components onto chips, they have reached the same conclusion as city planners: The only direction left to build is upwards. New generations of chips feature 3-D structures that stack components atop one another, but ensuring these components are all made to the right shapes and sizes requires a whole new dimension—literally—of measurement capability.

Read more at: Phys.org

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