Russia invests in local X-ray lithography technology

The Russian government will provide 670 million rubles ($8.5 million) to facilitate X-ray lithography research, Zelenograd reports. The Moscow Institute of Electronic Technology (MIET) will use these funds from the Ministry of Trade and Industry and advance its plans to develop a maskless lithography machine based on an X-ray synchrotron and/or a plasma. Ultimately, these machines should enable the processing of semiconductor wafers with 28nm, 16nm and smaller designs.

Western sanctions leave a heavy toll on Russia, not only on everyday products and consumer technologies, but also on semiconductors that might be desirable for local industry (and the military). Late last month, the Russian government decided to provide serious funding to local research institutes to develop vital machines for the local semiconductor company. The Russian government is also considering ways to work more closely with China.

ASML, based in the Netherlands, has supplied the EUV lithography machines that are at the heart of highly advanced factories around the world. Companies such as TSMC, Samsung and Intel jockey for these machines, but there are countries on advanced technology sanctions lists that are not allowed to buy them. Russia and China are the most notable members of the ASML blacklist.

Interestingly, the source notes that Russia was involved in the development of EUV lithography in the 2010s. Its leading scientists decided that the work could not be done in geographical isolation, so some of the research (particularly on radiation sources) has apparently been shared and applied by the ASML.

Other interesting past work in Russia included the development of the synchrotron X-ray source at Zelenograd in the mid-1980s. This technology was apparently developed by forward-looking scientists for the purposes of microelectronics processing, but the plans were not followed. It will now be used in this newly funded X-ray lithography research, but new devices based on it should be ready by 2023.

MIET isn’t just refining a process with its x-ray lithography blueprints. It’s going to take some serious research. “Our project is a research work that has no analogue: no one in the world has ever done maskless lithography on such principles,” said Nikolai Dyuzhev, director of microsystems and electronics at MIET. .

Above we mentioned that the final design will run for 28nm, 16nm and below, but X-ray lithography is already said to have potential for working at “better than 10nm resolution”. X-rays have a shorter wavelength than EUV radiation.

It is hoped that research on X-ray lithography will begin in earnest from November this year. By then, technical specifications and feasibility studies for a prototype of elaborate X-ray lithography machines should have been proposed.

As for production testing using any new X-ray lithography machine, we’ll have to wait five years or more, according to Dyuzhev.

Considering all this, the Russian X-ray lithography program does not seem to have much practical value. However, it could make valuable contributions to the science of semiconductor fabrication as a whole.

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