University of Illinois researchers have a new low-cost method to carve delicate features onto semiconductor wafers using light – and watch as it happens. The team’s new technique can monitor a semiconductor’s surface as it is etched, in real time, with nanometer resolution. It uses a special type of microscope that uses two beams of light to very precisely measure topography.
The researchers envision this technology applied beyond etching, to real-time monitoring of other processes in materials science and life science – for example, watching carbon nanotubes self-assemble, or error monitoring during large-scale computer chip manufacturing. It could help chip manufacturers reduce costs and processing time by ensuring that equipment stays calibrated.

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Also: Learn about a broadband optical absorber for semiconductors.