Semiconductor lithography’s impact on innovation

For the final installment of this year’s scholarly lecture series, Christopher “Chip” Mason will discuss the various innovations made possible by semiconductor lithography at the Wilton Historical Society on Sunday, March 18.

Mason has been a fellow at ASML in Wilton since 2014 and is an expert in alignment systems, focus systems and reticle stage technology. ASML is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of chip-making lithography equipment for the computer industry.

Lithography, Mason said, is “the most critical step in the process of manufacturing semiconductor chips.”

“The system works with a light source that is projected through a blueprint of a geometric chip pattern. Optics reduce and focus the pattern onto a thin slide of silicon — the wafer — that is coated with a light-sensitive chemical,” said Mason.

“The light interacts with the chemical, effectively printing the pattern onto the wafer. When unwanted silicon is etched away, a three-dimensional structure is revealed.”

The process is repeated dozens of times, he said, ultimately creating “a grid of hundreds of chips on a single silicon wafer.”

“Essentially, any advancement connected to our ability to harness more computing power in smaller form functions is enabled by semiconductor lithography,” said Mason.

Without semiconductor chips, he said, “there would be no computers, digital cameras, MP3 players, CDs, DVDs and game consoles; no mobile phones or Internet — not even a digital wristwatch.”

Semiconductor lithography is also “impacting the growth of wireless medical advancements and connected cars,” he said, and there are “few inventions that have transformed — and continue to transform — the world as dramatically as the invention of the silicon chip.”

“Wilton has played a significant historical role” in the evolution of the semiconductor lithography industry, which is at the heart of making electronic devices more powerful by fitting more transistors in the same area,” Mason added.

Attendees of his lecture, he said, will learn “why transistors are so important and how pervasively they impact our world and lives today.”

Mason’s Faster, Smaller, Greener scholarly series lecture will take place from 4 to 5:30, followed followed by a reception.

There is no charge, but donations are welcomed. Registration is strongly encouraged.

Information and registration: