A newsletter for alumni, students, and friends of the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

New Funding Will Aid Professor's Work on Next Generation of Computer Chips

Roxann L. Engelstad

Roxann L. Engelstad
(32K JPG)

Professor Roxann L. Engelstad's recently established Computational Mechanics Center will receive $1 million in new funding in a three-year contract with the US government's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in addition to continued funding from SEMATECH, a ten-member consortium of semiconductor manufacturers. The center has been heavily supported for the past two years by SEMATECH. The research involves evaluating next generation lithographies for making computer chips that are more advanced than those produced by current optical lithography methods.

Engelstad said that new chip-making technology is necessary because optical lithography cannot create the ever smaller feature sizes of chips needed to deliver more power, store more memory, and perform more tasks. Current methods can produce details down to 0.18 microns, but the goal is 0.10 microns and below.

With the aid of about two dozen graduate students and staff, Engelstad is looking at five alternative technologies that include X-ray, 157 nm optical lithography, projection electron beam, projection ion beam, and extreme ultraviolet. With sophisticated computer simulations, they are determining the accuracy and stability of the thin film masks that act as templates for transferring patterns to computer chips. The mask structures respond differently to mechanical and thermal factors that affect clarity or distortion of the patterns. Because the masks are so sensitive, they can be affected by gravity, heat, vibration, radiation or minute contaminants of dust.

To accomplish this research, Engelstad's group works in two facilities, the Computational Mechanics Laboratory and the Thin Films Laboratory with state-of-the-art equipment such as a Silicon Graphics Origin 2000 supercomputer. None of the test technologies is in commercial use yet, said Engelstad, because of the tremendous expense involved. Each ultra-thin silicon mask, for example, costs $10,000 or more to make, and they are extremely fragile. So computer simulations are essential for timely and cost-effective development.

Because computer chips and integrated circuits are the core of every modern electronic system, Engelstad's work has received international attention.

ME Newsletter is a periodic publication of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Mechanical Engineering. Correspondence should be sent to the address below.

ME Newsletter
Department of Mechanical Engineering
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1513 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53706-1572

      Editor: Gail Gawenda

Designer: Lynda Litzkow

Last Modified: Wednesday, 07-Jul-1999 17:00:00 CDT

SPRING 1999 Contents