21 October 2022
First European patent for AlixLabs’ Atomic Layer Etch Pitch Splitting technique
After being granted two US patents by the US Patent Office (US10930515 in February 2021 and US11424130 on 23 August 2022), the European Patent Office (EPO) has issued a notice of intention to grant AlixLabs AB of Lund, Sweden its first European Patent for the firm’s Atomic Layer Etch Pitch Splitting (APS) nanofabrication technique, a new method for manufacturing semiconductor components with a high degree of packing (eliminating several steps in the manufacturing process).
The patent covers methods to split nanostructures in half by a single process step using atomic layer etching (ALE). “Our key technology is based on a surprising discovery that sidewalls act as a topographical mask in atomic layer etch processes,” notes chief technology officer & co-founder Dr Dmitry Suyatin. “This technology has been proven for such different materials as gallium phosphide (GaP), silicon (Si) and tantalum nitride (TaN) – all being critical materials to the semiconductor and optoelectronic industry. Besides already having secured a granted two US and one Taiwan patent, we are now delighted to announce that our European patent will also be granted and that we have more patent applications in the pipeline. A process of validating the patent in key countries in Europe is in process,” he adds.
AlixLabs says that, since Europe is one of the most important markets for leading-edge semiconductor products (due to the size of the EU inner market for electronic goods like smartphones, PC/laptops, tablets, automotive and Internet servers), it is hence crucial for it to protect its APS process there through IP.
AlixLabs reckons that the method can have a significant impact on the semiconductor industry by enabling sustainable scaling of electronic components and shrink chip designs further in a cost-effective way. “The APS method is complementary for single-exposure immersion and extreme UV (EUV) lithography and corresponding multiple patterning technologies like self-aligned double and quadruple patterning (SADP and SAQP, respectively) as well as multiple exposure lithography-etch and directed self-assembly (DSA),” notes CEO & co-founder Dr Jonas Sundqvist.
It is hence reckoned that APS can make components cheaper and less resource-intensive to manufacture, and open up a new path for more sustainable mass production of electronic products. It also makes it possible to manufacture semiconductor components accurately and efficiently with manageable wafer fab equipment investments.
“APS can reduce complexity, capital expenditure and the environmental footprint for wafer manufacturing considerably,” adds Sundqvist. “Besides that the EU is one of the biggest markets for semiconductor components, the recent announcements of 300mm wafer fab expansions and leading automotive sector means that it is more important than ever to have European IP.”