With the help of nanotechnology, chips are being made with ever smaller structures. For chip maker ASML, Lans Engineering and Dutch Optics Centre (DOC) have developed the 'Fast-micro' particle scanner, which can detect small contaminations on surfaces. On a pellicle, to be precise – an ultra-thin membrane that protects the slide (reticle) with the chip’s pattern against particles.
“The pellicle prevents contaminants from depositing on the reticle. This pellicle must not contain particles larger than 1 μm, otherwise the quality of the chip is affected. The Fast-micro scanner can measure particles from 0.5 to 10 μm on a surface area of 120x120 mm in 30 seconds,” says Rob Lansbergen, formerly of TNO, who founded his own company, Lans Engineering, in 2000. The scanner can be used to determine whether a part, module or component is clean enough to be allowed into the machine. The particle scanner is also suitable for work in the cleanroom.
Collaboration between Lans Engineering and DOC (a partnership between TNO and TU Delft that aims to increase unique Dutch optical knowledge and develop innovative products) is going well. “The lines of communication between Lans Engineering and TNO are short and, for this project, we approached them to work alongside us. TNO possesses a lot of knowledge and extensive research possibilities that we ourselves do not have. The patent for this technology lies with TNO and we have the exclusive right to sell the modules. It is an ideal collaboration, in which we are not in each other's way but help each other to progress,” emphasises Lansbergen.
Series of scanners
The next step is the development of a second scanner to measure larger areas (up to 12-25 cm). Lans Engineering and DOC would like to create a series of scanners and prototypes. “We recently obtained a new subsidy that will enable us to continue developing particle scanners together. The ultimate goal is to create a portable product, a handheld device. The Fast-micro is currently in a table-top format. We need DOC/TNO for the development of these future products and the exploration of possibilities,” says Lansbergen.
Measuring particles on the nanoscale adds great value, not only to the chip industry. The parties see opportunities to roll out their technology more widely and within other sectors. There are possible applications in all kinds of areas, such as OLED TV production and aircraft lamination.