Every day, equipment manufacturers strive to make chips smaller, more efficient, and more powerful. And every day, they face challenges related to creating these chips in the most cost-efficient way possible. TNO is the ideal partner with whom to create the best semiconductor equipment of today, and explore all the possibilities of tomorrow. We don’t innovate for innovation’s sake. We create tangible solutions that drive progress for our industrial partners.
TNO was one of the four architects of equipment for lithography based on extreme ultra-violet light (EUV lithography) in the consortium led by ASML and Carl Zeiss. TNO developed multiple first-generation modules (e.g. reticle handler, positioning sensors) of which the designs, although by now improved by ASML and its partners, can still be recognised. TNO further specialised in equipment development (immersion & EUV lithography, new metrology concepts), the realisation of test and qualification equipment, and R&D for contamination control. TNO invests in quantum technologies and integrated photonics to be ready to meet the future needs of our partners.
TNO is specialised in contamination control for EUV lithography. For 20 years, TNO has been the preferred partner of ASML and Carl Zeiss in the development of modules, test equipment and strategies related to contamination control for EUV lithography equipment. TNO extended its unique infrastructure for contamination control R&D, including surface analysis equipment and gas & vacuum facilities, using its own (second) EUV beam line. A unique facility that became operational in 2018 and is used for research on materials, such as optics, reticles and pellicles, for all players in the EUV lithography field: material suppliers, end users (IDMs) and equipment developers (OEMs). TNO’s flow and thermal control specialists have over 10 years of experience in two-phase flow control for the most demanding application: immersion lithography.
For equipment vendors, TNO develops new machine concepts, including for optical lithography, optical metrology and scanning probe microscopy. In such projects, TNO combines its understanding of the needs of the semiconductor industry with its experience in systems engineering (see also TNO’s Space Systems Engineering portfolio) and knowledge of technologies resulting from scientific developments. One example is scanning probe microscopy, in which TNO became involved in 2014. In just a few years, TNO developed a machine concept to make this technology nearly 1000 times faster. This concept is now being brought to market by TNO’s spin-off company Nearfield Instruments (co-invested by Samsung and Innovation Industries) while TNO works on extended features to look, for instance, deeper into semiconductor devices. TNO examines nearfield optics and metamaterials for future optical metrology concepts.
TNO believes in quantum technologies as an extension to nanotechnology and semiconductor developments. Together with the Technical University Delft and with support from the Dutch government, TNO initiated QuTech, an institute aiming for the development of the first quantum computer and quantum internet. Together with Microsoft and Intel, nearly 300 scientists and engineers are working on these ambitions. See Quantum Inspire as an example of a first demonstrator of quantum computing and QuTech for more information. TNO also investigates potential applications of quantum technologies in the ICT and Defence & Security domains.
We aim to position Dutch manufacturers to create the information-driven society with key enabling technologies (needed for nearly all sustainable development goals), leading to sustainable jobs and GDP growth. Besides one-to-one support, TNO aims to support the development of competitive ecosystems with a strong foothold in the Netherlands. TNO works together with global market leaders to remain connected to state-of-the-art technologies and trends.
TNO works together with large technology firms like ASML, Carl Zeiss, Intel and Microsoft, as well as the Dutch SME Bronkhorst HighTech. This is mostly on confidential projects as these are the fastest track to valorisation. For less mature technologies, TNO works together in European consortia (e.g. ECSEL projects), national consortia (e.g. PhotonDelta) and even shared development programmes (e.g. QuTech). Finally, TNO aims to support Dutch SME, in particular, through technology transfers such as licensing and spin-out activities. TNO is proud that innovative Dutch SMEs make (or have made) use of TNO IP such as Delta Diagnostics, Hittech, LansEngineering, Mecal, Nearfield Instruments, Somni, Technobis, Technology of Sense and Valley Optics.
TNO intends to support equipment manufacturers and other players in the semiconductor industry now and in the future. The requirements of this equipment will become increasingly challenging. For example, mixed machine overlay requires more accurate lithography systems. Systems will become more expensive and therefore productivity, lifetime, and reliability requirements will go up. TNO develops technologies to measure ever smaller particles and thermal control concepts to enable this. Smaller features require more accurate metrology equipment and thus TNO investigates nearfield optics, metamaterials and other non-conventional tricks to extract information from nanometre-sized features. Equipment design will require new methodologies such as STOP analysis and Artificial Intelligence. Quantum technologies will not only be a new market by itself, but will also provide more accurate sensors for equipment control. And, on a device level, the conventional CMOS industry will become enriched with photonic integrated chips and quantum devices. TNO is active in all of these technologies.
Are you looking for tangible innovations for the semiconductor equipment industry? Get in touch with Rogier Verberk to discuss how TNO can help.
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