14 August 1998

Put A Mainframe In Your Pocket

A University of Central Florida physicist has invented a powerful new light source for imaging 21st century microchips with features smaller than one-thousandth the diameter of a human hair. UCF professor William Silfvast today unveiled the invention of an easily activated light source in the extreme ultraviolet (EUV) wavelength region that could print integrated circuit features less than one-tenth of a micron in width. Microchips fabricated with such small circuit lines would be 100 times more powerful and store 1,000 times more information than today's microprocessors and memory chips.

"The light source, when fully developed, will enable microchips to be produced much more economically than potential alternative sources and with such circuit complexity and density that they will make the most powerful chips now on the market seem like Model-T automobiles compared to today's high-performance cars," Silfvast said. Silfvast's device is one of several competing systems that are under development as the light source of the future in the chip-making process.

His light source is being developed for a process known as EUV lithography. This process prints microchip features by reflecting light from a patterned mask onto a silicon wafer. The shortness of the wavelength of the EUV light allows for much finer features and far more compact circuit designs than current optical technologies permit.

Nicholas Negroponte's dream of a digital future with powerful computers in everything has taken a step closer.

What would you miniaturise?

Picture � UCF