SAN JOSE, Calif., Oct. 7 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- KLA-Tencor (Nasdaq: KLAC) and IMEC, Europe's leading independent nanoelectronics and nanotechnology research center based in Belgium, today announced that they have entered into a joint-development project (JDP) to accelerate the adoption of optical critical dimension (CD) metrology technology for next-generation (65-nm and below) semiconductor applications. The JDP will focus on two key areas: extending the use of optical CD metrology in current applications, such as shallow trench isolation (STI) and gate, to the sub-65-nm node; and expanding the proliferation of optical CD metrology into new applications, such as 3-D contact and via layers. KLA-Tencor's SpectraCD 100 system will be the optical CD metrology tool used by IMEC for these development efforts. Formally introduced this past February, SpectraCD 100 has already been adopted by leading logic and memory manufacturers, as well as lithography tool suppliers, worldwide. "Maintaining control over the lithography process continues to remain one of the most pressing challenges that chipmakers face as they drive deeper into the Nano Realm," stated Dr. Luc Van den hove, vice president of IMEC. "Optical CD metrology has demonstrated its viability in 90-nm production for controlling critical patterning steps, and we are continuing our very effective partnership with KLA-Tencor to further develop this technology due to the company's aggressive investment in this technology. We believe that by working together, we can speed the implementation of optical CD metrology as a mainstream solution for managing lithography yields at the 65-nm node and beyond." For advanced lithography processes, traditional CD linewidth measurements are no longer enough to provide all the information that chipmakers need to accurately predict and maximize yield and transistor performance. Complete feature profile information is now required, including CD, sidewall angle, height and depth. Optical CD metrology is ideally suited to address this need due to its full 3-D profile measurement capability, and it is increasingly being adopted as an in-line process monitor for 90-nm IC production owing to its high throughput and ability to collect measurement data non-destructively compared to other metrology techniques. However, the transition to 65-nm and smaller design rules creates an entirely new set of challenges for lithography process control. Ultra-high numerical aperture (NA) lithography tools and immersion lithography, both of which are expected to be introduced in production at the 65-nm node and below, will further reduce the size of lithography process windows-accelerating the need for tighter lithography control in production. "Optical CD metrology plays an increasingly critical role in the IC fab in ensuring that patterning processes are controlled during production, and KLA-Tencor is committed to further enhancing the applications for this technology so that our customers can continue to meet their roadmap requirements," stated David Fisher, optical CD business unit manager at KLA-Tencor. "We believe that the combination of IMEC's world-leading processing capabilities with our optical CD metrology expertise will yield new insights into advanced lithography that will help ease our customers' transition to future technology nodes. IMEC is a leading pioneer in the development of advanced semiconductor processes, and we're honored to be chosen by them for this JDP in advanced lithography control." SpectraCD 100 utilizes KLA-Tencor's sixth-generation broadband spectroscopic ellipsometry technology with reflective optics. The tool provides industry-leading sensitivity for detecting key process issues, such as resist footers in gate structures. Its unique 3-D modeling capability enables contact hole metrology, which is especially crucial for production monitoring, since contact hole sizes that are significantly reduced or closed at the bottom of front-end-of-line (FEOL) structures can result in significant yield loss. The 3-D modeling capability also provides more accurate information on sidewall angle and height, which enables users to achieve tighter process control and better prediction of electrical performance. About IMEC: IMEC is a world leading independent research center in nanoelectronics and nanotechnology. Its research focuses on the next-generation of chips and systems, and on the enabling technologies for ambient intelligence. IMEC's research bridges the gap between fundamental research at universities and technology development in industry. Its unique balance of processing and system know-how, intellectual property portfolio, state-of-the-art infrastructure and a strong network of companies, universities and research institutes worldwide, positions IMEC as a key partner with which to develop and improve technologies for future systems. IMEC is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium and has representatives in the U.S., China and Japan. Its staff of more than 1,300 people includes over 380 industrial residents and guest researchers. In 2003, its revenues were EUR 145 million. Further information on IMEC can be found at www.imec.be About KLA-Tencor: KLA-Tencor is the world leader in yield management and process control solutions for semiconductor manufacturing and related industries. Headquartered in San Jose, Calif., with operations around the world, KLA-Tencor ranked #6 on S&P's 2002 index of the top 500 companies in the U.S. KLA-Tencor is traded on the Nasdaq National Market under the symbol KLAC. Additional information about the company is available on the Internet at http://www.kla-tencor.com .