Zeiss, Trumpf and Fraunhofer IOF Research Team Awarded Zukunftspreis

The team was awarded the trophy of the Deutscher Zukunftspreis 2020 by German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (left; source: Deutscher Zukunftspreis / Bildschön)

The German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced the winners of the German Future Prize 2020 in a ceremony in Berlin on November 25. The Federal President honored the team made up of Dr Peter Kürz from the Zeiss Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology segment, Dr Michael Kösters from Trumpf Lasersystems for Semiconductor Manufacturing, and Dr Sergiy Yulin from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF, bestowing on them his technology and innovation award for their project titled ‘EUV Lithography – New Light for the Digital Age’.

The winning team made a significant contribution to developing extreme ultraviolet technology and preparing it for industrial series production. The result? A future-proof technology backed by more than 2,000 patents which forms the basis for the digitalization of our daily lives and enables applications such as automated driving, 5G, Artificial Intelligence and other future innovations. Thanks to EUV, over 3,300 high-tech jobs have been created at Zeiss and Trumpf to date and an annual turnover of more than one billion euros – with an upward trend – was generated in 2019.

Higher-performance and more energy-efficient and cost-effective microchips

The Dutch company ASML is the world’s only EUV lithography machine manufacturer. As an integrator, the company designed the overall system architecture and the EUV source in particular. The high-power laser from Trumpf and the optical system from Zeiss are key components of these machines, which can be used to produce significantly higher-performance and more energy-efficient and cost-effective microchips throughout in this decade and the next. Effective digitalization requires a continued and rapid increase in computing power. Today’s smartphones are a million times more powerful than the computer used during the first Moon landing in 1969. This is made possible by a microchip that is smaller than a fingertip, but which has the capacity to accommodate more than fifteen billion transistors.

The manufacturing process for the latest chip generations is based on the use of EUV light, pushing the limits of what is technologically feasible. From the light source and the optical system in a vacuum through the surface coating of the mirrors used in the process – practically the entire exposure technology had to be developed from scratch.

EUV lithography – a German-European success story

With the world’s strongest pulsed industrial laser, Trumpf supplies a key component for the exposure of the most modern microchips used in every modern smartphone. There is no economical alternative to this laser for generating the light required for EUV lithography.

The experts in front of the world’s strongest pulsed industrial laser, which is used for light generation to enable EUV lithography (from left): Dr Peter Kürz from the Zeiss SMT segment, Dr Michael Kösters from Trumpf Lasersystems for Semiconductor Manufacturing, and Dr Sergiy Yulin from Fraunhofer IOF (click to enlarge; source: Deutscher Zukunftspreis / A. Pudenz)

The quality and form of the illumination system and the resolution power of the projection optics from Zeiss determine how small the structures on microchips can be. The mirrors used in the optical system therefore contain significant innovations. Since even the smallest irregularities lead to imaging errors, the world’s ‘most precise’ mirror was developed for EUV lithography by Zeiss. Fraunhofer was an important research partner in the sophisticated coating technology for the large-scale mirrors.

“We congratulate the researchers from Zeiss, Trumpf and the Fraunhofer IOF on this great award for their excellent work. In EUV lithography, they have developed a technology that will provide a digitalization push globally and by so doing also lays the foundation for further innovations,” says Prof Reimund Neugebauer, president of the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft. “Fraunhofer scientists played a major role in the development of the first EUV mirrors and beam sources in the almost three decades of research. The fact that EUV lithography is now being applied is also thanks to the intensive cooperation between science and industry as well as the spirit of research and the enduring commitment of all involved.”

The Deutsche Zukunftspreis has been presented every year since 1997. It is one of the highest accolades for scientific achievement in Germany and is worth 250,000 euros. It honors exceptional achievements in technology, engineering and the life sciences that have resulted in viable products. Every year, during a multistage selection process, the prestigious jury selects three research teams and their innovation for the final round from a large number of different projects, the shortlist. Alongside their innovative achievements, the jury also evaluates the development’s economic and social potential. Alongside the winning EUV team, a team from Carl Zeiss Meditec was also shortlisted. So Zeiss became the first company in the history of the Deutscher Zukunftspreis to hold two nominations. The award was presented in Berlin on 25 November 2020 under pandemic restrictions at Verti Music Hall by Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Zeiss and Trumpf are donating the prize money for charitable purposes. (Source: Zeiss)

Links: Deutscher Zukunftspreis – Preis des Bundespräsidenten für Technik und Innovation, Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft e.V., Essen, GermanyFunctional Surfaces and Coatings, Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF, Jena, GermanyIndustry management Electronics, TRUMPF GmbH + Co. KG (Holding), Ditzingen, GermanySemiconductor Manufacturing Technology, Carl Zeiss SMT GmbH, Oberkochen, Germany

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