Imec, Mitsui Strengthen Alliance on EUV Lithography

Imec, a world-leading research and innovation hub in nanoelectronics and digital technologies, and Mitsui Chemicals, a leading Japanese chemical company and EUV pellicle supplier, have announced a strategic partnership. Accordingly, they will focus on the commercialization of carbon-nanotube (CNT) based pellicles for extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography.

Left: Thomas Piliszczuk, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Strategic Partnerships at imec. Right: Akio Hirhahra, Business Sector President at Mitsui

Under this partnership, Mitsui Chemicals will integrate imec’s fundamental CNT-based pellicle innovation into Mitsui Chemicals’ CNT pellicle technology. Thus, aiming to achieve full production specifications, targeting its introduction in high-power EUV systems in the 2025-2026 timeframe. The signing took place in Tokyo during Semicon Japan 2023.

Eyes Full Production

The strategic partnership intends to develop the membrane and EUV pellicle jointly through consultation and EUV scanner validation by imec for commercialization at Mitsui Chemicals. These pellicles, designed to protect the photomask from contamination during EUV exposure, have extremely high EUV transmittance (≧ 94%). Moreover, it has very low EUV reflectance and minimal optical influence. These are critical properties for high yield and throughput in advanced semiconductor manufacturing.

Carbon-nanotube (CNT) based pellicle

In addition, the CNT pellicles can withstand EUV power levels beyond 1kW. Hence, supporting the future EUV source roadmap (>600W). These properties have generated strong interest from companies that use EUV lithography in high-volume manufacturing. Therefore, both parties will jointly develop industry-ready CNT pellicles to meet the market requirements. 

“Imec has a long history of supporting the semiconductor ecosystem to advance the lithography roadmap. Since 2015, we collaborated with partners throughout the supply chain to develop an innovative CNT-based pellicle design for advanced EUV lithography,” says Steven Scheer, Senior Vice President Advanced Patterning, Process and Materials at imec. “We are confident that the in-depth knowledge we have on the metrology, characterization, properties and performance of CNT membranes will accelerate Mitsui Chemicals’ product development. Together, we hope to bring CNT pellicles into production for future generations of EUV lithography.” 

Left: Akio Hirhahra, Business Sector President at Mitsui; Right: Thomas Piliszczuk, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Strategic Partnerships at imec.

The lithography roadmap projects new pellicle introduction in the 2025-2026 timeframe, i.e., when next-generation ASML 0.33NA EUV lithography systems will support light sources with power levels of 600W and higher. This time frame is associated with the insertion of logic technology nodes beyond 2nm.