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China to make 5nm chips with SAQP process

A Beijing-based state-owned enterprise reportedly has started research on a multiple-patterning process that can achieve the mass production of 5 nanometer chips.

Naura Technology Group, a Shenzhen-listed company, last month began research on lithography systems that use a technique known as self-aligned quadruple patterning (SAQP), which can increase a chip’s density and performance, the South China Morning Post reported on Monday.

The company’s decision to develop the SAQP technology was made last December, according to the report, which cited people familiar with the matter.

The SCMP report was published after Bloomberg reported on March 22 that SiCarrier, a Shenzhen-based SOE that works with Huawei, in late 2023 had been granted a patent that involves SAQP.

Bloomberg said SiCarrier filed patents for the technology in September 2021 when Naura was also involved in this project.

Some technology experts say the SAQP technology is an old and a low technology that nevertheless may help Huawei and Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC) achieve their goals of making 5nm chips without ASML’s extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography machines. Some others say there is a long way to go before they succeed.

Since the technology war between China and the United States broke out in 2019, Washington has asked the Dutch government to stop permitting the export of EUV lithography to China. The US has a say in this issue as it owns some essential patents for the making of EUV systems.

From January 1 this year, the Dutch government stopped granting licenses for the shipment to China of ASML’s most advanced deep-ultraviolet (DUV) immersion lithography systems (NXT: 2000i, NXT:2050i and NXT:2100i and subsequent systems).