N.Y. lands SEMATECH North:
a center for nanoscale chip R&D

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ALBANY, N.Y., July 19, 2002 — Gov. George Pataki delivered a big steak Thursday to support the sizzle of turning New York’s Capitol District into a “Tech Valley” that would spawn thousands of jobs and enterprises.

In the packed atrium of the University at Albany’s Center of Excellence in Nanoelectronics, Pataki unveiled a $400 million plan for SEMATECH North, an expansion of the Austin, Texas-based consortium of global chip giants that includes IBM Corp., Intel Corp., Motorola Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Texas Instruments Inc., Royal Philips Electronics N.V. and STMicroelectronics Group.

SEMATECH North’s goal: developing next generation technology such as extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) to drastically shrink chip components from today’s range of 130-200 nanometers to the “true” nanoscale of less than 100 nanometers. EUV holds the promise of patterning chips with components as small as 35 nanometers, just a few atoms in size.

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Of course, simply squeezing more and ever-smaller transistors onto silicon chips doesn’t generally fall under the real rubric of nanotechnology.

But as Albany Nanotech Director Alain Kaloyeros explained, producing chips cost effectively at the nanoscale will require complementary advances in many areas of small tech that the consortium will also be working on.

For example, building the masks for EUV lithography may eventually require molecules to self-assemble into the proper patterns. To accommodate nanoscale chip architecture, chipmakers must continue to refine the surface structure of silicon wafers.

Nanoscale chipmaking will also be the mother of invention for production equipment such as microscopes, lasers and machine tools that will employ small technologies such as MEMS devices and tiny sensors. Finally, new materials such as nanoengineered thin films, coatings or particles will also play a role in enabling SEMATECH North to continue the Moore’s Law march of improvements in price/performance.

“Extreme ultraviolet will require other extremes,” including new models of how industry and technology can coevolve, Kaloyeros said.

Indeed, SEMATECH President Robert Helms said that improving chip technologies was critical to driving the global economy, adding that the challenges for sustaining Moore’s Law were greater than ever before and will require ongoing breakthroughs in nanoscience and engineering.

He said that by the end of the decade, the chip industry will require a healthy marriage of nanotechnology and production processes, such as building chips on larger wafers like the new 300mm silicon discs that Albany Nanotech is helping IBM pioneer in its new chip fab in nearby East Fishkill, N.Y.

To give a sense of just how extremely small chipmaking with extreme ultraviolet would be, Helms compared it to “looking at a satellite image of New York State and being able to see every object as small as a blade of grass,” whereas current chip photolithography can only resolve components down to about the size of a golf ball. Further advances in EUV could shrink that blade of grass to the width of a human hair, with resulting transistors and interconnections as little as three or four atoms wide.

With Albany NanoTech at the heart of the effort to bring industry, government and academia into a close and unique partnership, Pataki suggested that SEMATECH North would radically transform the region in the 21st century just as the Erie Canal did in the 19th.

Scott Donnelly, senior vice president of GE Global Research in neighboring Niskayuna, N.Y., said that he expected the money and facilities SEMATECH North would bring to serve as a magnet for scientific talent, both attracting them from elsewhere and keeping those from institutions such as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the region.

“We’re already collaborating with Albany NanoTech in some important areas for us and think this development will be tremendous for all of the businesses and institutions involved,” Donnelly said.

The first SEMATECH R&D center, established in Austin in 1988, helped fuel the region’s economy growth and established that capitol district as a high-tech hotbed. New York State was a finalist in 1988 but fell short.

Last year, after meeting leaders of the semiconductor industry at an event at upstate New York’s Lake George, Pataki was determined to win this time around.

Pataki credited Albany Nanotech’s Kaloyeros with helping persuade the chip consortium to select upstate New York as its next nexus. For someone not holding elected office, Kaloyeros is “a whale of a politician” who blended the academic credibility of a respected physics professor and researcher with a vision for how a university could serve as an industry catalyst, Pataki said.

Helms concluded that the blend of the region’s academic resources, political support and industry involvement made New York the clear choice over competing bids from across the United States and around the globe.

When it opens in the fall, SEMATECH North will occupy 25,000 square feet of clean room facilities under construction next to Albany NanoTech’s main building and will initially employ about 250.

The $403 million initiative is composed of a $320 million alliance between SEMATECH and SUNY-Albany in addition to $50 million that New York state previously allocated and $33 million in in-kind contributions that IBM previously allocated for facilities at Albany Nanotech.


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