As a capital-intensive and technology-intensive industry, the semiconductor industry has many advanced technologies and resources in the hands of very few giants. It is actually very difficult for latecomers to overtake in corners. After all, the semiconductor industry is closely related to many fields. It includes an LED display.

Looking at the global semiconductor foundry field, only TSMC and Samsung have been at the top of the industry for many years. If they want to continue to achieve breakthroughs in wafer technology, they must rely heavily on advanced EUV lithography machines, but they can produce The only company that owns EUV lithography machines is the Dutch company ASML.

However, due to the late start of semiconductor foundries in mainland China, the lack of corresponding research topics, and the introduction of EUV lithography machines for research, the wafer technology level will lag behind a lot, which is also a dilemma that we cannot overcome at present.

ASML TSMC EUV
ASML TSMC EUV

However, judging from the current development trend, EUV lithography machines seem to be weakened by the entire industry, because major semiconductor industry giants have set their sights on new fields, and photonic chips may become the main direction of attack in the future.

According to relevant media reports, the Netherlands recently announced plans to invest 1.1 billion euros in the development of photonic circuits. This move is to seize the future semiconductor market and create the next ASML.


In addition, the German giant company Q.ANT took the lead and jointly established the “PhoQuant” project with 14 technology giants.

Regarding the series of actions of these giant companies, some foreign media said that this is equivalent to the development prospect of the default photonic chip, and to a certain extent, it has recognized the trend of photonic chips to replace electronic circuits.

According to foreign media, as long as the photonic chip completes the technical verification, it will be exported to the industry, and the manufacture of photonic chips does not rely on EUV lithography machines, so the role of EUV lithography machines will also be continuously weakened.

Photonic Chips Technology
Photonic Chips Technology


The reason why photonic chips do not need EUV lithography machines is that photonic circuits are fundamentally different from electronic circuits. EUV lithography machines mainly increase the number of transistors by reducing the feature size of transistors, and their operations mainly rely on electron migration.

Photonic chips are completely different, and their operations rely on light waves as the carrier of data operations, so the basic logic is different, and there is no direct connection with EUV lithography machines. This is also the main reason why photonic chips are regarded as the next generation of semiconductor technology. reason.

It has to be said that this is a dramatic scene. You must know that EUV lithography machine is the crystallization of high-end European technology, but now European countries are developing photonic circuit technology to replace ASML’s EUV lithography machine with next-generation technology. .


But if you think about it, you will find that although ASML is a European company, the production of EUV lithography machines cannot be mastered independently, because most of the core devices still need to be supplied by the United States, which is why ASML cannot freely ship. .

Photonic Chips Technology
Photonic Chips Technology

On the other hand, Europe’s efforts to develop photonic chip technology is also to master electronic chip manufacturing technology, because although Europe has the ability to produce EUV lithography machines, it does not have the industry’s leading electronic chip manufacturing technology.

In fact, in the field of photonic chips, it is not only Europe that is working hard to conquer it. The United States has listed photonics as a national development priority as early as 1991. In 2021, the United States led the establishment of the National Optics and Photonics Core Group and invested heavily Support the development of photonic technology.


However, China has not shown weakness in this field. For example, Zhongke Xintong Company is already preparing to build a world-leading photonic chip production line. In addition, my country has successfully developed the first photonic chip with orbital angular momentum waveguide. Huawei is in this field. Some breakthroughs have also been made in the field.

From the perspective of the future development trend of photonic chips, my country may use this to achieve overtaking in corners, but in the short term, due to technical bottlenecks, photonic chips and electronic chips will still be in a long coexistence stage, but in the long run , it will be the general trend for photonic chips to become the mainstream of the industry. At that time, in the field of semiconductors, it is not impossible to share the world with EUV lithography machines, and even to erode the market of EUV lithography machines.

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