Lucent Technologies has been selected by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a MEMS-based system that will make the fabrication of integrated circuits faster and more economical.
The four-year contract was awarded by the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, San Diego, and is valued at $9.5 million, including options.
The contract calls for Lucent to design and demonstrate Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS)-based Spatial Light Modulators (SLMs) that can be used in the development of maskless optical lithography equipment.
Lithography is the process of imprinting patterns on semiconductor materials used in integrated circuits. And, at present, a pattern, or mask, unique for each part of a circuit, is required. However, masks are costly, and new masks are needed each time a circuit design has to be modified.
For that reason, especially in low-volume situations, mask fabrication can become a significant manufacturing cost. But a maskless lithography process using MEMS-based SLMs, on the other hand, would allow manufactures to build circuits without the expense of individual masks.
The Bell Labs-developed MEMS SLM technology is itself made possible by advanced nanofabrication techniques. Lucent says its SLMs will contain 10 times more individual movable micromirrors than comparable devices that are available today so that optical maskless lithography systems used in the fabrication of silicon devices can deliver features as small as 50nm as well as a high throughput.