Control the Light, Change the World

Light is energy.

It’s a simple statement that holds almost unfathomable implications. The earth and its inhabitants as we know them would not exist without the power of light. It warms the planet and is a crucial element of weather and climate. It fuels our entire food chain and is key to the process that fills our atmosphere with oxygen.

To say it’s important is an understatement.

Aside from being a natural phenomenon, things such as photography, lasers, and solar energy would not be possible had we never understood light and how to control it. And a world without lasers would lack their crucial benefits.

Even more, light has had a heavy hand in the pace and nature of technology and, in particular, semiconductors. That’s right. Those tiny little semiconductors and integrated circuits (IC) inside some of the most amazing technology in the world would not be possible without light.


Current IC processes are not possible without photolithography. It’s a practice that involves exposing light onto a photoresist or other light-sensitive material, which changes the makeup of that material. The exposed material is then removed, leaving behind a pattern onto which more back-end processing can take place. This video explains it perfectly:

As you can see, controlling the light in this way is extremely difficult and presents quite a few challenges. But the results are well worth it. Because of our ability to control light, integrated circuits are smaller, denser, and jam-packed with functionality that wasn’t possible before.

Old news

Yes, photolithography isn’t the newest revelation in nanotechnology. But it’s still an incredibly common production method after decades of being in practice. In the world of technology, that’s pretty impressive.

What’s especially exciting, though, is how our relationship to light continues to evolve. Solar energy’s increasing prevalence is just one example of light’s role in how we’ll live in the future. Scientists are even working not only to control the light, but also to change it. SEMI members are experimenting with different ways to manipulate light into creating patterns smaller than its own wavelengths.

Talk about a…bright…future.

Back to Newsroom