Can space build fabs?

On May 31, 2020, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley from the SpaceX DM-2 Dragon spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station (ISS), the first time a commercial spacecraft has transported astronauts to the International Space Station.

The International Space Station is a research laboratory for businesses, governments and universities. For some time now, astronauts on the International Space Station have conducted a number of innovative experiments for various organizations in the laboratory.

For example, the world’s first EUV-based lithography experiment on the International Space Station recently could lay the groundwork for the manufacture of advanced chips in space.

Can space build fabs?

Photo: Flickr

On November 2, 2019, northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft was launched from the Wallops Flight Institute in Virginia. The spacecraft carries payloads from Astrileux, a company that provides optical technology for integrated circuits under 7nm, to the International Space Station. The payload is carried out in collaboration with the Space Science Development Center (CASIS) and the Nano Rack, which also carries more than 20 other payloads.

Last November, astronauts on the International Space Station performed photolithography experiments on the international space station’s external platform using a payload from Astrileux. The experiment was conducted around Astrileux’s new EUV optical coating technology to determine whether it was possible to capture solar EUV radiation using Astrileux’s EUV coating. These materials form the basis for the optics and mirrors of the EUV photolithography tool with a wavelength of 13.5 nm.

Experiments have shown that solar EUV radiation can be captured with Astrileux’s EUV coating. One day, materials from Astrileux could become a new type of space instrument. It also lays the foundation for future EUV-based space lithography technology, which uses the energy of solar radiation as a light source.

Originally launched in 2000, the International Space Station is a modular space laboratory in collaboration with aerospace agencies in the United States, Russia, Japan, Europe and Canada. On the International Space Station, astronauts conduct scientific experiments in astronomy, cosmology, meteorology and physics.

Making chips and components is another interesting topic in space. “Achieving the goal of long-term human survival in the sky requires the construction of an electronically manufactured ecosystem to support the localized, self-sustaining community on the International Space Station,” said Supriya Jaiswal, ceo of Astrileux. “Astronauts at work are able to prototype electronics quickly as needed to create new capabilities on the International Space Station, including the ability to enhance computing power and build new smart devices, as well as to quickly repair obsolete or destroyed electronic devices that can occur in high-risk operations.” “

It’s hard to imagine a factory with large EUV equipment building on the International Space Station or even on the moon or Mars. But in the future, it will be possible to develop small fabs or mini fabs in space.

To do this, spacecraft or space colonies will require 3D printers and fab tools, as well as photolithography of wafers. This is where you need to work with Astrileux, the Space Science Development Center, and the NanoRacks. The Center for Space Science Development is the administrator of the International Space Station’s National Laboratory, a U.S. government-funded laboratory.

The nanocapsule aerospace company installed two research platforms at the International Space Station’s U.S. national laboratory. According to the nanomodules, each platform can hold payloads of up to 16 cubes at the form size. The payload of each cube satellite is a four-inch cube.

For experiments, Astrileux designed the payload and merged it into the cube satellite of the nanomodule. Cube sats include internal and external components of the Astrileux payload.

Last November, astronauts on the International Space Station installed the Astrileux payload in the airlock and automatically mounted it on an external platform before the experiment was activated. Part of the cube satellite is exposed to sunlight, allowing Astrileux’s EUV coating to capture enough solar radiation. The project looked at how EUV materials can withstand degradation in extreme radiation environments.

In the experiment, the astrileux material successfully demonstrated the wavelength range (10nm-20nm) of the EUV. “Astrileux has created a new type of EUV optical coating that can survive in extreme radiation environments and can effectively capture EUV radiation at 13.5nm and other EUV wavelengths,” Jaiswal said. “

In view of this result, there will one day be new applications in these materials. First, it could pave the way for new space instruments capable of capturing EUV radiation. “Astrileux’s new EUV optics lay the foundation for new designs for optical systems used in space exploration, solar radiation imaging, telescopes, star systems and space systems,” Jaiswal said. “

There are other new and future applications. “The purpose of the experiment is to lay the foundation for the manufacture of space electrons at 7nm and below. “The Astrileux payload measures and captures EUV solar radiation at 13.5 nm lithography wavelengths as it orbits the Earth, ” Jaiswal said. Typically, an EUV lithography tool with a powerful light source is used to graphicalize the wafer at the desired wafer yield. However, this payload can measure and capture natural solar EUV radiation that can be used to compose silicon wafers. “

Traditional EUV optics can take more than 100 days to graphicalize individual wafers, while Astrileux optics can eventually reduce the graphics time to less than 10 hours. This, in turn, makes wafer graphics and manufacturing a viable concept in small communities in space.

At the same time, on Earth, some foundries have put EUV lithography technology into 7nm and 5nm production, and carried out 3nm research and development. Astrileux’s new EUV coating is also ideal for EUV lithography scanners in production plants.

Can space build fabs?