MojoKid writes "One of the greatest obstacles standing between chip manufacturers and the pursuit of smaller, faster, processors is the lack of a proper light source. Current chips are etched using a deep ultraviolet wavelength of 193nm, but at a 28nm semiconductor process geometry, we've reached the limits of what a 193nm wavelength is small enough to etch. Extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) has been pegged as the most likely replacement for current 193nm technology, but repeated problems with ramping EUV have left it stalled on the runway. Now, for the first time, foundry technology developer ASML, which made headlines last year by partnering more closely with Intel and TSMC, believes it has cleared some of the hurdles between it and widespread EUV commercialization. The company predicts EUV technology could be ready for ramp by 2015. Two problems have stymied EUV deployment thus far. The first is the strength of the light source. Generating EUV at the intensities required for mass production can require as much as an order of magnitude more input power than conventional lithography. Second, there's the issue of exposure time. The two are linked — a higher-power system can etch wafers more quickly, but the power requirements could edge into the kilowatt range for each piece of equipment. The NXE:3300, which ASML is shipping this year, will be capable of hitting 125 wafers per hour, once the company boosts the light source up to 250W. That boost is still off in the future. Current NXE:3300 machines are targeting 80W by the end of the year."
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