Serious Defects Found in 5nm Chips Manufactured Using Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography

Written by Neil Soutter on Wed, Feb 28, 2018 2:05 PM

(EUV) Extreme Ultraviolet lithography has long been touted as the answer to process shrinks and keeping pace with Moore’s law. The likes of Intel and AMD are finding it increasingly difficult to make the technological leaps in the fabrication process, slowly inching to 14nm and subsequently 12nm fabrication. EUV has been seen as the solution, with IBM even revealing its first 5nm EUV chip last June.

However, serious chip defects have been uncovered following extreme UV fabrication, potentially forcing manufacturers to abandon the fabrication process entirely. Researchers in California have detected random defects appearing in silicon manufactured using extreme ultraviolet lithography on the 5nm nodes.

The process of photolithography requires that patterns are etched onto the silicon wafer, which is then coated with a material called photoresist that is light sensitive. After this, the wafer is exposed to high-intensity ultraviolet light shone through a mask. The areas blocked by the mask will retain the photoresist layer, while the parts exposed to the line will burn away. Finally, acid is applied to the wafer, etching away the areas which aren’t coated with photoresist. While this is largely reductionist, this is the general idea for chip fabrication.

Unfortunately, the researchers have discovered that EUV photolithography with 250W EUV light isn’t working. Some of the photoresist material isn’t being etched away properly, and there are gaps, flaws, and tears in the circuit, rendering the chips manufactured practically useless. They’re so tiny that they can take days to even locate, let alone attempt to fix.

Where things get even more complicated is there don’t appear to be any solutions to this problem. Researchers have attempted a number of techniques but none of them have so far worked.

Looking past the upcoming crop 10nm processors, a number of major players such as GlobalFoundries, Samsung, and TSMC are all intending to use 250W EUV for 7nm chip fabrication, which will be intended for use by AMD and Intel, and their future plans are all going to be hugely affected by their investment into a flawed technology that has no obvious solution just yet. The hope is that manufacturers can begin to better understand how and why this is happening, and hopefully figure out the steps necessary to solve the issue. Failing this, alternative technologies will need to be pursued.

Could these defects become a serious issue for the advancement of CPU technology? Let us know what your thoughts are!

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12:55 Mar-07-2018

Ok say it. In other word more increase in cpu price.....

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20:16 Mar-07-2018

not necessarily, it means we could have to wait longer until 5nm based products will be on the market, nobody is going to launch products that cost more to produce compared to the previous generation if there is basically no benefit, for instance read; if a straight die shrink for a given chip from 7nm EUV to 5nm EUV jacks up the price, the shrink won't happen

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15:03 Mar-03-2018

just remove igpu in CPU chip design save a lot of work!!!


take some idea from sci-Ficition movie , anime , CG movie so on...

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15:23 Mar-03-2018

won't help with anything as when unused the iGPUs basically do NOT make a difference to temperatures and you want chips without iGPUs? The Xeon E3 CPUs are basically i5s and i7s without iGPUs.

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00:00 Mar-04-2018

ummm, that is really secondary if you can't produce any processor without massive yield issues, yes removing the iGPU would theoretically help out, but by the sound of things, this would be a one usable chip in every third wafer type situation to start with

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13:28 Mar-04-2018

Most iGPUs generally don't generate as much heat as the CPU cores on the same die. I know this from experience with my previous rig's Core i3-3120M 3rd gen processor's and my current rig's AMD FX-7500 processor's iGPUs. If we're talking about laptop hardware, removing the iGPUs is a bit counter-productive because we have gone through that time already.

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11:43 Mar-07-2018

sacrifice igpu design space to focus lower cpu chip nm and cpu design and more cpu core


research may take 10years above

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12:33 Mar-07-2018

Not at all.

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16:36 Mar-01-2018

Shouldn't the fabrication process reach its limit now? As I hearing that they're designing chips with lower lithography, i was getting curious that wouldn't it be low enough before something happens. One would only wonder what will happen if they go down to 1nm design.

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18:50 Mar-01-2018

we are hitting the wall with silicon and copper using optical lithography, yes, EUV may not even be good enough for next gen nodes, bypassing it might be needed and going straight to x ray lithography now (a full 5 years sooner) might be needed but I think they will first go to switching production over to an inert atmosphere (argon, neon, a hard vacuum)

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08:26 Mar-01-2018

Isn't it time already to move to graphene?

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09:08 Mar-01-2018

Nope. Graphene isn't a good option, it's a good conductor, but that's about it. It is terrible at retaining data, it is unstable, it heats more, though at the same time has a higher melting point, but it's the components around it that will go bad. And it leaks voltage like crazy. So it will take a lot of time for them to make it possible and on top of that make it cheap enough so that somebody can buy it.

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09:09 Mar-01-2018

Now a great idea was to add graphene to the CPU interconnections, currently, they are copper, the idea is to replace them with graphene or coat them in graphene, which from what I've read should increase the clock speeds multiple times in theory as thanks to graphene the signals will get from point A to point B much faster than with copper.

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17:38 Mar-01-2018

Carbon based or molybdenum based transistors are basically mandatory at &#604nm, as we are getting below 10nm, wiring and interconnects are going to have to be replaced by at least of an alloy of cobalt and copper or tungsten and copper, if not pure cobalt or tungsten. This is all because of quantum mechanics

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23:56 Feb-28-2018

Going quantum is the way forward

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09:52 Mar-01-2018

Veeeeeery long time before we see them in consumer's hands

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19:52 Mar-01-2018

Sadly yes :( It's going to be incredible though

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14:07 Mar-04-2018

Yea, we haven't even achieved the necessary q-bits in quantum processors yet. And don't even get me started on those MAINTENANCE costs yet, sheesh...

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20:20 Mar-01-2018

and there are questions of if they even will be better to begin with than binary logic technology for consumer applications

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21:40 Feb-28-2018

the radius of a silicon atom is about 0.2nm

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20:39 Feb-28-2018

can we get a source for the article?


I do have to wonder if using a different chemical makeup for the wafers themselves could correct the problem and I do have to wonder what transistor design being attempted; IBM themselves used germanium and silicon to make their prototype 7nm chip, they also used the same Ge and Si technique with 5nm but instead of using FinFets, they used Gate all around Fets

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10:45 Mar-01-2018
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20:32 Mar-01-2018

thank you

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15:42 Feb-28-2018

It sounds like they all committed to using this fabrication method so my question is why wasn't this uncovered earlier?

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14:16 Feb-28-2018

"The likes of Intel and AMD are finding it increasingly difficult to make technological leaps in the fabrication process..." Emphasis on AMD.
AMD does NOT make their own chips as they do NOT own any fabs, NOR do they help with the development of process nodes.


It's more like Samsung, IBM, Intel, TSMC and Global Foundry(which are the major ones).

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14:33 Feb-28-2018

That's not the implication, as per further down where GlobalFoundries, Samsung, and TSMC are identified.

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16:24 Feb-28-2018

Global Foundry was owned by AMD a few years ago.

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19:14 Feb-28-2018

Yup, it was also I believe founded by AMD, but still, AMD has NOT made chips for almost 10 years, if NOT 10 years.

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10:38 Mar-01-2018

I think your caps lock key might be broken?

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11:58 Mar-01-2018

because I write not like this -> "NOT"? Well, I've noticed that often times people(myself included) for some reason miss a "not", so "NOT" brings more attention. Sadly people have this bad idea that if you make it in all caps you are yelling, screaming or whatnot, I use caps to put emphasis on something, the built-in HTML ones suck and take longer to use than holding down a shift key.


I also got a spellcheck plugin so that I do NOT make mistakes as on GD after a certain amount of time you can NOT edit your comments and I tend to mess up as well, so suddenly all the company names are in caps or start with capital letter as well XD

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