In fall 1999, the design
project was aimed at exploring a new concept for semiconductor
manufacturing processes which could substantially impact the semiconductor
industry's state-of-art, delivering a meaningful technical and systems
assessment as well as a development roadmap for the concept.
The opportunity for a new
concept was driven by the recognition that the cost and complexity of
competitive semiconductor manufacturing is substantially determined by the
cost of the manufacturing process equipment used in the fab, and also that
today's equipment technology depends on process reactor designs which are
fixed once the reactor is constructed.
The new concept central to the
design project was the notion of a programmable
reactor, in which process parameters could be varied as a function of
position using software control and hardware sensing and actuation devices.
This means that the process consequences could be varied as desired as a
function of spatial position in the reactor, or more specifically across
the semiconductor wafer. With the current evolution from
8" to 12" wafers and the enormous value represented by a
processed wafer, substantial benefit can be anticipated if improved
spatial control of the process consequences across the wafer were
In particular, two major
advances were envisioned. First, a
spatially programmable reactor would ensure that across-wafer uniformity
adequate for manufacturability could be achieved at any desired process
design point (parameter set). This would mean that process
performance need not be compromised to meet the uniformity demands of
manufacturing. Second, a programmable
reactor design would allow more rapid research and development cycles,
allowing multiple process design points to be investigated on a single
wafer by intentionally programming in
across-wafer nonuniformity, as well as by
reducing the experimentation needed to optimize the tradeoff between
process performance and uniformity.
The class investigated a
spectrum of semiconductor processes, focused primarily on chemical vapor
deposition as an early target for the programmable reactor concept, and
addressed a variety of key materials and systems issued involved in the
development of the concept.