Build a better sensor and the world will beat a path to your door. Or at least that part of the world that makes semiconductors. That's the hope, anyway, of Scientific Systems. The principals behind the small Dublin-based company, which specializes in plasma process components such as impedance monitors and ion flux probes, believe they're getting closer to helping chipmakers overcome one of the major challenges identified in the 1999 International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS). Improved sensors are one of the sine qua nons for metrology in the next five years, the makes clear. Published in November, the updated document targets them as one of metrology's so-called difficult challenges: "Better sensors must be developed for trench etch endpoint, ion species/energy/dosage (current), and wafer temperature during RTA." Ultimately, better sensors will enable more control of the ionized gases, resulting in yield improvements. Scientific Systems believes it has a solution close at hand. The five-year-old firm has been working with chipmakers in Europe, Japan, and the United States as well as OEMs such as Lam Research and Applied Materials to perfect an automatic sensor for measuring and controlling plasma etch and deposition. Michael Hopkins, president of the company, thinks the technology, now in beta site tests, represents a breakthrough. "We would think of it like that, yes," he replies. "It's basically a paradigm shift. We feel that the plasma process has been a little bit of a black art in the industry. And as the industry moves to a more mature manufacturing level, then you're going to have to require a more robust process. We use the analogy of 'engineering
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