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Commerce Acts on Industry's Call for Semiconductor Measurement Assistance

U.S. Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown today announced that the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is entering into an historic partnership to support the U.S. semiconductor industry with the establishment of the "National Semiconductor Metrology Program."

Characterized by the Secretary as building on the Administration's strong support for industry/government R&D; partnerships that help create jobs and economic growth, the proposed $25 million program was developed in conjunction with the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA). The program was called for by the SIA to help meet its national semiconductor technology roadmap, which charts the industry's technical course through 2007 to maintain U.S. semiconductor industry global competitiveness.

In a press conference this morning with semiconductor industry leaders and other Administration officials, Secretary Brown also called for swift Senate passage of S. 4, the National Competitiveness Act, to enable Commerce to continue to support programs such as this. S. 4 authorizes the Commerce Department's technology and manufacturing programs, which are merit-based, cost-shared, and driven by the needs of U.S. industry.

"Commerce's technology and manufacturing programs build on a tradition of industry/government partnerships that have helped U.S. businesses take the lead in fields such as pharmaceuticals and agriculture," Secretary Brown said. "Our spending on technology and manufacturing is a leveraged investment with a high rate of return: by helping industry to create jobs and compete successfully in the global marketplace, we will grow the economy," he said.

Semiconductors are the building blocks of products and services in many segments of the U.S. economy, including navigation and air traffic control, patient diagnostics and monitoring, and electronic funds transfer. Semiconductor development trends are racing toward smaller dimensions in integrated circuits, lower concentration levels of contaminants, higher speeds, greater circuit complexity and escalating costs. Fast-paced development requires dramatic, challenging measurement tools to keep advanced microelectronic manufacturing competitive. Commerce's National Semiconductor Metrology Program will help U.S. industry meet these challenges.

Noting NIST's traditional role in semiconductor measurement science and technology, or metrology, the SIA roadmap recommended that NIST fulfill the need for leadership in this area by performing additional measurement R&D;, coordinating semiconductor metrology work at NIST with that of other government agencies, and serving as an initial point of contact for inquiries on semiconductor metrology topics. Funding of $4.8 million for the program is already in place. The President's fiscal year 1995 budget request contains $5.2 million to support this NIST program. Congressional action on the budget request is necessary before funding levels can be finalized. NIST is committed to mounting a $25 million program by fiscal year 1997.

Although technical plans are still being formulated, areas slated for inclusion correspond to SIA technical working groups that are now updating the roadmap. Accurate metrology is vital to each of the following areas.

  • Lithography, the process of making patterns on silicon wafers, requires enhanced measurements of feature size and placement, resist film deposition and removal processes, and exposure tools.
  • Interconnect, the electrical connections between active devices on a silicon chip, needs improved understanding of methods of assessing electromigration, plasma etching processes and metal deposition.
  • Bulk materials and processes, including starting silicon material, deposited polycrystalline layers, thermal processing, and diffusion or implantation within the silicon, rely in part on measurements using enhanced sensitivity and resolution.
  • Factory systems and facilities require sophisticated metrology and modeling for computer-integrated manufacturing, contamination-free manufacturing and equipment design.
  • Packaging a chip for use in an electronic system is evolving to incorporate many more electrical connections with higher power dissipation and frequency of operation.
  • Design and testing of microcircuits benefit from development of test methodologies, including electrical instrument calibration services and advanced testing strategies.
  • Device structures depend on metrology for an accurate physical understanding of device behavior when scaled to smaller dimensions.

Industry's input will guide NIST as it refines the technical program plan. NIST will take maximum advantage of capabilities at other organizations. The institute already has an agreement to coordinate its work in semiconductor metrology with the Department of Energy's Sandia National Laboratories work in semiconductor technology.

NIST has a long history of working with the semiconductor industry. It developed its first semiconductor projects more than 30 years ago and continues that close cooperation today through a variety of research and services.

As a non-regulatory agency of the Commerce Department's Technology Administration, NIST promotes U.S. economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards.

Released March 2, 1994, Updated November 27, 2017