Direct Imprinting of Nanostructures in Solids to Revolutionize Micro/Nano Manufacturing
Develop a laser-based, melt-and-stamp manufacturing technology that can directly imprint nanoscale patterns on a hard surface, replacing complex and costly lithographic and chemical polishing processes for a wide range of semiconductor manufacturing tasks.
Sponsor: Nanonex Corporation1 Deer Park Drive
Monmouth Junction, NJ 08852
Nanonex Corporation has proposed developing a paradigm-changing approach to a set of common micromanufacturing tasks, replacing complex, multi-step lithographic processing with a novel laser-based melt and stamp process called "laser-assisted direct imprint" (LADI). Nanopatterning is the creation of regular patterns of nanoscale surface features on a semiconductor wafer. Planarization is a process for polishing or leveling a production wafer to prepare it for lithography or to remove excess material. Nanotrench filing is a process for filling narrow, nanoscale trenches on a wafer with a different material—copper, for example—to build connections. They are critical processing stages in semiconductor manufacturing, and involve a complex series of steps such as applying a photoresist, lithography exposure, resist development, etching, resist stripping, chemical-mechanical polishing and more. Nanonex plans to develop a completely new technology that handles these tasks rapidly, eliminates many processing steps and materials, lowers the cost of manufacturing and achieves resolutions lower than 10 nanometers. The core idea is a nanoscale stamping process. A short laser pulse shining through a transparent mold melts a thin layer on a hard surface, such as a semiconductor wafer, as the mold is pressed into the molten layer, imprinting a pattern. A patterned mold produces a nanopatterned surface; a flat mold can be used for wafer planarization or to press a molten surface layer into underlying voids for trench filling. The technology, which was invented at Princeton University and licensed to and further developed by Nanonex, has demonstrated imprint features as fine as 10 nanometers in silicon, gold, copper and silicon carbide with a resolution more than four times better than today's photolithography. The process is fast: the laser melts a solid surface in a nanosecond and the imprint is complete within 200 nanoseconds, and simple: many steps such as resist processing, etching, and others, are eliminated. Major technical barriers to be resolved include scaling up the process to work reliably at commercially viable sizes and optimizing process variables such as mold pressure and mold release. If successful, Nanonex's low-cost, nanoscale LADI technology would be applicable to a wide range of nanoscale products, including semiconductor integrated circuits, data storage chips, displays, solid-state lighting, solar cells, telecommunications products, biotech arrays and more, for a total market that today exceeds $100 billion. It also is a "greener" technology, producing significantly less chemical waste than lithography and conventional wafer planarization.