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Oct 5th, 2012
University of Illinois monitors semiconductor etching with light
An inexpensive, completely optical technique uses a special type of microscope to simultaneously etch features onto a semiconductor wafer’s surface while monitoring the entire process in real time with nanometer precision.
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Semiconductors are commonly shaped by chemical etching. Chip makers and researchers need to control the dimensions of their devices very precisely, because errors affect performance, speed, error rate and time to failure. A team led by electrical and computer engineering professors Gabriel Popescu and Lynford Goddard at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has developed a microscopy method that uses two light beams to precisely image and sculpt the topography of a semiconductor’s surface with high precision.

Figure caption: A 3-D image of the University of Illinois logo etched into a gallium-arsenide semiconductor, taken during etching with a new microscopy technique that monitors the etching process on the nanometer scale. The height difference between the orange and purple regions is approximately 250 nm. Courtesy of Chris Edwards, Amir Arbabi, Gabriel Popescu and Lynford Goddard.

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