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Chipmakers, N.Y. state seed lithography project

AMD, IBM, Micron and Infineon, as well as the University at Albany, are allocating more than $580 million toward the effort.

A coalition of chip-related companies and a New York state university are expected to announce Tuesday the launch of a lithography research project designed to bring advances in creating the next generation of nanosemiconductors.

Chipmakers Advanced Micro Devices, IBM, Micron and Infineon Technologies, as well as chip-material makers and the state of New York, are expected to allocate more than $580 million toward the project. The project, International Venture for Nanolithography, will be housed at the University at Albany in New York.

Under the seven-year research project, participants will create a neutral environment to develop nanolithography tools that can be used in the production of chips, said Rob Keosheyan, an AMD spokesman.

Improving lithography, the art of "drawing" circuits on silicon wafers, stands as one of the chief challenges for the industry at the moment. Immersion lithography, which involves trying to draw circuits with a laser on a wafer submerged in purified water, is starting to be used by chipmakers.

"By working with other industry leaders and sharing knowledge and collaborating, we can get better results and faster," Keosheyan said. "On top of that, next-generation technology is getting more costly and expensive to develop, so this helps distribute the costs."

The onerous capital costs and scientific challenges facing chipmakers and designers has forced most chipmakers into extensive alliances to defray costs and risks. But even with its many partnership programs, IBM's chip division, for example, chronically loses money.

The lithography project in New York, in fact, builds on pre-existing research and development alliances between IBM and Infineon, IBM and AMD, and IBM and the state of New York to promote Albany as a technology center.

"This will help build Albany as the cutting edge center for nanotechnology and create a Switzerland-like environment for each of the companies and participants," said Shonna Keogan, a spokeswoman for the university's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.