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Microscopy Technique Could Help Computer Industry Develop 3-D Components

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Three-dimensional tri-gate transistors.

These three-dimensional tri-gate (FinFET) transistors are among the 3-D microchip structures that could be measured using through-focus scanning optical microscopy (TSOM).

Credit: Intel Corporation


Through-focus Scanning Optical Microscopy (TSOM) could become a crucial tool for improving computer chips. For decades, computer chips have resembled city maps in that their components are essentially flat, but designers are now looking to follow city planners and build upwards, with a new generation of chips that feature three-dimensional (3D) structures that stack components atop one another. The move would enable designers to pack more components onto chips, but it would require a whole new dimension of measurement capability to ensure they are made to the right shapes and sizes. "Now, we will need to measure all sides of a three-dimensional structure that has more nooks and crannies than many modern buildings," says the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Ravikiran Attota. Developed at NIST several years ago, TSOM uses a conventional optical microscope and collects two-dimensional images at different focal positions, forming a 3D data space. Software then extracts brightness profiles from the multiple out-of-focus images and uses the differences between them to construct the TSOM image. "Our simulation studies show that TSOM might measure features as small as 10 nm or smaller, which would be enough for the semiconductor industry for another decade," Attota says.

From "Microscopy Technique Could Help Computer Industry Develop 3-D Components"

NIST News (06/25/13) Chad Boutin

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