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Cornell University


CLASSE stands for Cornell Laboratory for Accelerator-based ScienceS and Education

CLASSE collaborates with firm to advance semiconductor manufacturing

staff in front of CBETA accelerator

Vice President for Research and Innovation at Cornell University:  Krystyn Van Vliet,  CLASSE Faculty and Researchers: Jared Maxson, Matthias Liepe, and Georg Hoffstaetter, and Vice President of Accelerator Systems at xLight: Bruce Dunham.

Cornell University and, a private startup company based in California, have entered into a new collaboration aimed at revolutionizing semiconductor chip manufacturing through state-of-the-art particle accelerator technology. This collaboration marks a significant step in leveraging Cornell’s robust research infrastructure  for the research and development objectives of critical U.S. industries.

This project centers around energy recovery linear accelerator (ERL) technology, a kind of highly efficient particle accelerator technology invented at Cornell. The Cornell-xLight partnership will utilize the Cornell Brookhaven Energy Recovery Linac Test Accelerator, CBETA, a one-of-a-kind breakthrough  accelerator systemdeveloped at the Cornell Laboratory for Accelerator-based Sciences and Education (CLASSE).

xLight aims to leverage CBETA's unique capabilities to create new extreme ultraviolet light sources for next-generation microchip production. The company's goal is to utilize an ERL similar to CBETA, to power a free-electron laser light source for semiconductor lithography.

CBETA is specifically designed to explore energy-efficient particle accelerator research, considerably reducing power consumption compared to traditional accelerators. This inventive approach allows the accelerator to achieve high-current, high-energy electron beams with much less energy input, making it a model of sustainability in accelerator technology.

The first step is to build a new electron source, one which can provide the high power electron beams needed for Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) light production.

“To produce intense EUV light, we need to achieve a small but dense electron beam in the accelerator, and it all starts with the electron source. Cornell has a long history of developing record-setting electron sources, including the one currently in CBETA,”  said Jared Maxson, professor of physics in the College of Arts and Sciences, and lead researcher in the electron source lab at CLASSE.

While current light source technologies have contributed to extending Moore’s Law—doubling the number of transistors on an integrated circuit every two years with minimal cost increases—the complexity of modern chip designs is outpacing these advancements. The increasingly intricate and miniaturized features printed on a silicon wafer paired with greater production of advanced technologies require power levels that are presently very challenging to obtain.

Energy recovery technology is far more efficient than other accelerator technologies, and hence offers greater production at lower power costs. Pair this with a bright electron source, and it is attractive to the industry that is searching for solutions.

Currently, to achieve these high energy levels, semiconductor manufacturers must consume more power in an industry already notorious for its energy use. In 2022, the Taiwanese semiconductor manufacturer TSMC consumed nearly 22,000 gigawatt-hours of energy, with electricity being the primary source - comparable to the annual energy usage of the city of Los Angeles, CA.

An ERL could achieve high beam power while minimizing overall power consumption.  

"Working together with xLight highlights the impact of CBETA’s advanced technology and the pioneering research conducted at CLASSE,” said Georg Hoffstaetter de Torquat, professor of physics in the College of Arts and Sciences, and principal investigator of the CBETA project. “Many of the individuals who helped build CBETA are now part of xLight, showcasing the educational opportunities and career pathways that our projects provide. We are not only advancing energy recovery research but also fostering a new generation of scientific talent."

"This new collaboration presents a unique opportunity to transform the pioneering technologies developed at Cornell for significant market and societal impact. Collaborations like these can fuel progress and attract further investments in science and technology, benefiting society as a whole,” stated Krystyn Van Vliet, Vice President for Research and Innovation at Cornell University.

Bruce Dunham, Vice President of Accelerator Systems at xLight, expressed enthusiasm about the project, stating, “CLASSE’s facilities, history of innovation, and breakthroughs in accelerator physics make it one of the world’s preeminent leaders in accelerator technologies. Many of the technologies developed at Cornell over the years are integral to xLight’s mission, and we are eager to support their team’s work as their collaborator.”

This engagement signifies a pivotal first step towards enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of next generation semiconductor production processes, with far-reaching implications for industries ranging from consumer electronics to defense, data centers, biotechnology, and artificial intelligence.