7 March 2008 Making a trillion pixels dance
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In June 2007, Intel announced a new pixelated mask technology. This technology was created to address the problem caused by the growing gap between the lithography wavelength and the feature sizes patterned with it. As this gap has increased, the quality of the image has deteriorated. About a decade ago, Optical Proximity Correction (OPC) was introduced to bridge this gap, but as this gap continued to increase, one could not rely on the same basic set of techniques to maintain image quality. The computational lithography group at Intel sought to alleviate this problem by experimenting with additional degrees of freedom within the mask. This paper describes the resulting pixelated mask technology, and some of the computational methods used to create it. The first key element of this technology is a thick mask model. We realized very early in the development that, unlike traditional OPC methods, the pixelated mask would require a very accurate thick mask model. Whereas in the traditional methods, one can use the relatively coarse approximations such as the boundary layer method, use of such techniques resulted not just in incorrect sizing of parts of the pattern, but in whole features missing. We built on top of previously published domain decomposition methods, and incorporated limitations of the mask manufacturing process, to create an accurate thick mask model. Several additional computational techniques were invoked to substantially increase the speed of this method to a point that it was feasible for full chip tapeout. A second key element of the computational scheme was the comprehension of mask manufacturability, including the vital issue of the number of colors in the mask. While it is obvious that use of three or more colors will give the best image, one has to be practical about projecting mask manufacturing capabilities for such a complex mask. To circumvent this serious issue, we eventually settled on a two color mask - comprising plain glass and etched glass. In addition, there were several smaller manufacturability concerns, for example a "1X1" glass pillar (an isolated 0 phase pixel) were susceptible to collapse under the stress of mask processing, and therefore these had to be constrained out of the final configuration. A third key element was defining the objective function. We experimented with a large number of choices and eventually settled on a form that allows us to trade-off fidelity and contrast. A fourth key element was the optimization algorithm. The number of possible configurations for a trillion pixels present on our final product mask is greater than the number of total elementary particles in the known universe, so finding the proverbial needle in this haystack was difficult to say the least. We chose a mixture of stochastic and direct descent algorithms to find an arrangement that meets the demands. While we have not proved we are close to the absolute global minimum, we conducted several experiments to suggest this is the case. A fifth key element, and a large one at that, was scaling up our software system from micron length scale to centimeter length scale required for full chip tapeout. This software, in turn, has several key components - hierarchy handling, the non-trivial handling of pixelated domain boundaries, repair of regions not converged in terms of image quality, and verification of the entire assembled database. All elements described above were validated through the tapeout of an actual mask to pattern the most complex metal layer for the leading 65nm node microprocessor in high volume manufacturing. This very first experimental tapeout resulted in wafer parts yield comparable to yields on mass produced wafers made with production 65nm technology.
© (2008) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
Vivek Singh, Bin Hu, Kenny Toh, Srinivas Bollepalli, Stephan Wagner, Yan Borodovsky, "Making a trillion pixels dance", Proc. SPIE 6924, Optical Microlithography XXI, 69240S (7 March 2008); doi: 10.1117/12.773248; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.773248

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