Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Intelligent Machines

Semiconductor Manufacturing: No Tresspassing

As computers get smaller and smaller, contamination becomes a bigger issue in manufacturing them. Even the vacuum chambers used in “clean rooms” aren’t completely free of wayward particles-and even tiny particles can ruin an expensive set of silicon wafers.

Existing defenses against these trespassers aren’t particularly sharp. They work by periodically checking the surfaces of silicon wafers for impurities. These methods are hit-and-miss, and they’re helpless against particles smaller than two-tenths of a micrometer.

Now William Reents, a chemist at Lucent Technologies’ Bell Labs, has put together a laser-based instrument to zero in on particles as small as one-thousandth of a micrometer, a twohundredfold improvement. What’s more, the device can determine in real time the chemical composition of the contamination, helping pinpoint its source.

This story is part of our November/December 1998 Issue
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

Reents’ invention pulls particles through a thin capillary tube. A laser zaps the particles, ionizing the atoms; the ions are then accelerated toward a detector. The time it takes for each ion to reach the detector depends on the ion’s mass, and that information can be used to determine the chemical makeup of the particle.
Tests are under way to see how the detector performs attached to actual clean-room equipment. If all goes well, Bell Labs hopes to entice an equipment maker to produce an instrument rugged enough to stand up to manufacturing conditions.

Keep up with the latest in intelligent machines at EmTech Digital.

The Countdown has begun.
March 25-26, 2019
San Francisco, CA

Register now
More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Print + All Access Digital.
  • Print + All Access Digital {! insider.prices.print_digital !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    The best of MIT Technology Review in print and online, plus unlimited access to our online archive, an ad-free web experience, discounts to MIT Technology Review events, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

    6 bi-monthly issues of print + digital magazine

    10% discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

    Ad-free website experience

    The Download: newsletter delivery each weekday to your inbox

    The MIT Technology Review App

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.