Today’s microchips are marvels of nanoscale engineering. A modernmicroprocessor contains hundreds of millions of transistors packed onto a thumbnail-size piece of silicon. However, our customers are hard atwork on designs that will make today’s chips seem crude by comparison.
We can make transistors with channels just 20 nanometers wide. Thechallenge, at this infinitesimal scale, is to make every transistorexactly the same. Minute differences in its physical or electricalproperties can make major differences in the speed of the finished chips made on a wafer. Only the fastest, most valuable ones find their wayinto high-end video cards and smartphones.
The semiconductingchannel at the heart of each transistor is created, or activated, byquickly heating up the wafer to a set high temperature and cooling itdown again, selectively turning the top few atomic layers from aninsulator to a semiconductor.
This critical process is called rapid thermal processing, or RTP. Differences of just a few degrees Celsius will change the channel depth enough to affect the whole chip. The effect is small, but at theleading edge, small effects make a major difference.
In the videoabove, Applied Materials’ Shankar Muthukrishnan discusses the role ofRTP in manufacturing microchips and the progression of the technologyfrom the simple furnaces of the 1970s all the way to the state of theart – the Applied Vantage Vulcan RTP system – that was unveiled today.
The new Applied Vantage Vulcan RTP system can match the temperature ofevery feature on the wafer within 3 Celsius, even while the wafertemperature is ramping at over 200 degrees per second on its way to amaximum temperature as high as 1,300 Celsius – hotter than molten lava.
This astonishing performance will enable our customer to make moreconsistent, more powerful chips than ever before and cements Applied’sposition as the technology leader in RTP for multiple future productgenerations.
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