University spinout develops nanoscale printing technology for smaller, lighter semiconductors 

New technology makes micro-chips with features 4,000 times smaller than a human hair  

20 February, 2018.  University of Birmingham spinout Irresistible Materials (IM), announces the final stages of testing for a novel material used for manufacturing micro-chips with features smaller than 18 nanometers (nm) – 4,000 times smaller than a human hair.

The new materials will enable electronic device manufacturers to make smaller, lighter devices, and pave the way for IM to enter the multi-billion dollar global semiconductor market.

The new materials incorporate small molecules, developed at and patented by the University of Birmingham, which are part of a ‘multi-trigger resist’ (MTR) solution.  The MTR is part of a ‘photoresist’ that coats the silicon chip before it is etched, and is activated by exposure to extreme ultraviolet (EUV) light, which has a wavelength of just 13.5nm. 

Light is used to etch grooves onto the surface of silicon micro-chips, and these grooves define the ‘wires’ on the semi-conductor base (see illustration below).  Current manufacturing techniques use light with a much larger wavelength of 193nm, and this has limited the size of the features that can be etched onto a micro-chip.  

The electronics industry requires ever smaller and lighter micro-chips and has committed to the introduction of EUV lithography by 20191.

The testing will take place at the University’s Nano-Physics, Chemistry and Engineering Research Laboratory, under the auspices of Dr Alex Robinson, one of the inventors of MTR technology, who is also a founding Director of Irresistible Materials.   

Alex Robinson commented: “Staff expertise at the University will be central to this £1m collaborative testing project, which will use state of the art nanoscale testing facilities at the University, as well as partner laboratories in Europe and the US, to investigate the application of extremely novel chemistry to a large scale industrial problem.” 

David Ure, founding Director of Irresistible Materials, commented: “We have already demonstrated superior or equivalent performance to leading EUV photoresist products and are extremely excited to enter the last stages of testing.  Major manufacturers have had EUV lithography on their roadmaps for several years, and there is a now growing urgency for the industry to be ready for mass production involving EUV lithography in 2019.” 

These final stages of testing are part funded by a grant from the UK’s innovation agency Innovate UK, and part funded by private investment funds raised by Irresistible Materials.

Submitted on 21/02/2018