If computers are to continue getting faster,
researchers must find ways to make smaller logic circuits. Today's lithographic
processes are only precise enough to continue to make smaller devices
for the next five or ten years.
The challenge in continuing to use today's manufacturing processes
beyond the next decade is finding a way to get around the diffraction
limit, which keeps lightwaves from being focused more narrowly than half
the light's wavelength.
Researchers from the University of Rochester have found a way
to improve the resolution of lithographic systems that could extend the
lifetime of the manufacturing technique. The researchers' proof-of-principal
experiments show that the technique improves resolution by three times.
In theory further improvements are possible, according to the researchers.
The method is a form of multi-photon absorption lithography, which
uses materials that can absorb two or more photons at a time in the same
spot and the interference patterns that cancel out the outer portion of
a spot while reinforcing the center of the spot.
In many multi-photon absorption lithography schemes the interference
patterns are caused by entangled, or linked photons, but it is difficult
to produce bright sources of entangled photons.
The University of Rochester scheme simplifies a method of using
a pair of ordinary ordinary laser beams rather than an entangled photon
source first developed at the University of California at Los Angeles.
The Rochester approach involves firing multiple pulses and shifting the
phase of successive pulses by a fixed amount.
The technique could be used practically in two to five years,
according to the researchers. The work appeared in the November 15, 2004
issue of Optics Express.
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