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MESA+ Institute develops tool to measure plasma source and wavelength...

14 Sep 2023

...and fellow Twente, Netherlands, spinoff Superlight Photonics announces completion of seed investment round.

Researchers at MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology, part of the University of Twente, in the Netherlands, have developed a tool that can measure the size of a plasma source and the wavelength of the light it emits simultaneously.

Measuring both parameters at the same time enables MESA+ researchers to further improve lithography machines with the aim of developing smaller, faster and improved chips.

The work is highlighted as an “Editor’s pick” in Optics Letters.

Lithography machines are central to the process of making the microchips that are needed for almost all electronic devices. To produce the smallest chips, these machines require precision-engineered lenses, mirrors and light sources.

“Traditionally, we could only look at the amount of light produced, but to further improve the chipmaking process, we also want to study the wavelengths of that light and the size of its source,” commented Muharrem Bayraktar, assistant professor at the XUV Optics Group.

The extreme ultraviolet light is emitted by a plasma source, produced by aiming lasers at metal droplets. With sets of special mirrors, this light is aimed at a silicon wafer to create the smallest microchips imaginable.

“We want to make the plasma as small as possible. Too large and you waste a lot of light because the mirrors cannot catch all the light,” said Bayraktar.

In addition to the beam size, the emitted wavelength is also important. “The plasma does not only emit extreme ultraviolet light, but also other colors,” said Bayraktar. With this new tool, the researchers can look at the size and wavelength simultaneously. This makes it possible to investigate the relation between the size of a plasma source and wavelength it emits.

For this new tool, the researchers used a combination of tapered zone plates and transmission grating. Both were produced at MESA+. Tapered zone plates are specialized optical components that manipulate extreme ultraviolet light to precisely image the plasma source. The transmission grating disperses the light into its individual colors, making it possible to individually measure them.

Netherlands startup SuperLight gains funding

SuperLight Photonics, a spin-off from the University of Twente, is developing a wideband laser that can serve as a light source in various measurement and detection applications.

On September 14th, the company announced the completion of a seed investment round, led by Dutch Deep Tech investor DeepTechXL in collaboration with Oost NL. With the investment, SuperLight Photonics plans to further develop its platform technology into products and systems. Financial details were not disclosed.

The wideband laser is based on the patented platform technology of SuperLight’s founder Haider Zia. Zia was previously a researcher at Twente, specializing in integrated and nonlinear optics.

Superlight contends that “Unlike existing laser technology, we can use colors in light to transmit information. This technology has numerous potential applications, such as creating 3D images of eyes for opticians or aiding dermatologists in detecting skin cancer. Beyond the medical sector, laser technology can be used, for example, to detect small cracks in oil or gas pipelines or to enhance optical safety sensors in smart cars.”

CEO Cees Links commented, “Our mission is to leverage our platform technology with active support from our investors. We are aiming for a swift market entry, relying on the robust photonics ecosystem in the Netherlands and Twente.

“In the coming years, SuperLight is poised for significant growth, market establishment, and further scaling. We eagerly anticipate market responses to our upcoming product launches at the PIC Summit Europephotonics event on November 7th and 8th in Eindhoven.”

Ron Maurer, partner at DeepTechXL, commented, “The [Superlight] technology aligns with our goals of achieving societal objectives such as faster, more cost-effective data generation and disease detection. In the long run, it could also contribute to more energy-efficient data exchange.”

Jacob Issa, investment manager Tech at Oost, added, “SuperLight Photonics is a brilliant example of innovative entrepreneurship in synergy with knowledge institutions in Twente. Through Innovatiefonds Overijssel, a fund of the Province of Overijssel managed by Oost NL, we can contribute to the solid establishment and growth of a unique photonics company.”

SPECTROGON ABOptikos Corporation Berkeley Nucleonics CorporationECOPTIKCeNing Optics Co LtdMad City Labs, Inc.LASEROPTIK GmbH
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