Technology News Update: Intel has been working on Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) Lithography for a long time. The technology may provide Intel an edge in smartphone chipsets, to compete with the likes of Qualcomm and MediaTek.
The evolution of chipsets from the 10nm process to the 7nm process has thrown up unique challenges. Now, parts of the transistors on the chipset are as small as 7 nanometers, while deep ultraviolet light used to create them is 193nm. This makes getting the atom-scale accuracy to create efficient processors difficult.
Manufacturers were able to achieve minute designs in the past by multiple patterning – they exposed metal wafer base of the chipset twice or thrice to achieve a set pattern. Complex chipsets require as many as 20 such layers, which makes it a 1000-step process. This process was labor-intensive and created room for errors.
The EUV process created by Intel may be a solution for creating more efficient and quick-performing processors. EUV projects a chip blueprint on silicon using a 13.5 nm light with an incredibly small wavelength. This helps manufacturers create minuscule features, something that wasn’t efficiently possible with the previous technology. It can lay down a pattern using a single exposure, at a much better resolution.
EUV though comes with its own challenges- it is a very difficult light to control. The downtime of EUV machines has been a bottleneck in its full adoption in the chipset manufacturing process. But Intel is ramping up the process for high-volume manufacturing and is expected to pick up this year.
One of the factors that will be necessary for EUV adoption is cost. Deep UV plants cost billions of dollars to set up. EUV is expected to only add to this cost. The advantage of EUV, seemingly is that it will be a quicker and more accurate process and combined with a large production line, could result in a faster output of microchips – manufacturers will essentially be able to producer much more efficient chipsets in lesser time.
The key to EUV’s success and it becoming an eventual replacement for the current process will be output. If Intel can scale up the production of chipsets using the technology, it may be able to give Qualcomm and MediaTek a run for their money.