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Using magnetic levitation to increase precision in making integrated circuits is the goal of a technology-licensing agreement between MIT and Integrated Solutions, Inc., of Tewksbury.
The agreement permits Integrated Solutions (ISI), a developer and manufacturer of ultra-precise machines for semiconductor production, exclusive right to apply the magnetic levitation technology developed by Professor David Trumper of the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the design and manufacture of ISI's wafer stepper tool for printing integrated circuit patterns.
Magnetic levitation (mag-lev) technology offers the promise of extremely fast and accurate frictionless positioning of the silicon wafers on which integrated circuit chips are fabricated. The process is called microlithography. ISI engineers expect to be able to position stepper stages, on which wafers are photographically imaged, with accuracy measured at better than 10 nanometers. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter.
MIT holds three patents in mag-lev technology which are available exclusively to Integrated Solutions for microlithography applications under the terms of the agreement.
The mag-lev technology will be used to replace the current fine set stage and long travel stages of a wafer stepper capable of eight inches of travel, according to Dr. Larry F. Thompson, Integrated Solutions vice president for product development.
"This agreement is a good example of a significant American university technology discovery finding application in high tech in a short period of time. It illustrates the direct effect university research can have on American industry in a highly competitive, high technology-driven worldwide industry," Dr. Thompson noted.
The MIT technology developments will be incorporated with a recently announced CRADA (Cooperative Research and Development Agreement) for ISI to share mag-lev technology research results exclusively with Sandia National Laboratories, he said.
"I have absolutely no doubt that this new mag-lev precision measurement and motion technology will have a profound effect on next generation semiconductor production equipment, such as wafer steppers, already under development," Dr. Thomson said.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 10, 1995.