The developers of EUV lithography have also been nominated for the German Future Prize. This technology suddenly makes the production of tiny microchips possible.

Microchips have long been a fundamental part of our everyday life. Hardly anyone questions the fact that we can call up and send huge amounts of data in fractions of a second – for most people, a flick of the wrist is enough to hold one of the powerful computer chips in your hand. Yet hardly anyone can say how the manufacturers manage to make our smartphones ever smaller and lighter, but still more powerful.

Transistors are an essential component of the central control chip. Only with them can the smartphone work, open Internet pages or perform arithmetic operations. The more transistors, the more calculations can be performed.

The transistors that determine the computing power of computer chips are getting smaller every year. EUV lithography will further accelerate this process.

Microchips are becoming increasingly powerful

“In 1970 we had about 1,000 transistors on one chip, and if we look now, smartphone, latest generation, you have 10 billion transistors on a chip that is smaller than your fingertip. And that’s what it’s all about. To produce more conductive chips that also consume less energy and are more cost-effective, and at such a rate that every two years the number of transistors is doubled.

Dr. Peter Kürz, Head of EUV Development, Carl Zeiss AG

This is how Peter Kürz, who is working on the development of a new technology called EUV lithography at Oberkochen-based Carl Zeiss AG, puts it. It allows chips to be built that are even smaller and more capable than before.


International cooperation enables progress

For this work, the optics and electronics group Zeiss, the laser manufacturer Trumpf from Ditzingen, the Fraunhofer Institute IOF from Jena and the Dutch group ASML have been jointly nominated for the German Future Prize, which is awarded by the German President in person. However, Zeiss, Trumpf and ASML do not design the computer chips, but rather the devices with which the tiny chips are manufactured. ASML builds the machine, Trumpf builds the laser and Zeiss builds the optical system.

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