Design and development of material-based resolution enhancement techniques for optical lithography
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The relentless commercial drive for smaller, faster, and cheaper semi-conductor devices has pushed the existing patterning technologies to their limits. Photolithography, one of the crucial processes that determine the feature size in a microchip, is currently facing this challenge. The immaturity of next generation lithography (NGL) technology, particularly EUV, forces the semiconductor industry to explore new processing technologies that can extend the use of the existing lithographic method (i.e. ArF lithography) to enable production beyond the 32 nm node. Two new resolution enhancement techniques, double exposure lithography (DEL) and pitch division lithography (PDL), were proposed that could extend the resolution capability of the current lithography tools. This thesis describes the material and process development for these two techniques. DEL technique requires two exposure passes in a single lithographic cycle. The first exposure is performed with a mask that has a relaxed pitch, and the mask is then shifted by half pitch and re-used for the second exposure. The resolution of the resulting pattern on the wafer is doubled with respect to the features on the mask. This technique can be enabled with a type of material that functions as optical threshold layer (OTL). The key requirements for materials to be useful for OTL are a photoinduced isothermal phase transition and permeance modulation with reverse capabilities. A number of materials were designed and tested based on long alkyl side chain crystalline polymers that bear azobenzene pendant groups on the main chain. The target copolymers were synthesized and fully characterized. A proof-of-concept for the OTL design was successfully demonstrated with a series of customized analytical techniques. PDL technique doubles the line density of a grating mask with only a single exposure and is fully compatible with current lithography tools. Thus, this technique is capable of extending the resolution limit of the current ArF lithography without increasing the cost-of-ownership. Pitch division with a single exposure is accomplished by a dual-tone photoresist. This thesis presents a novel method to enable a dual-tone behavior by addition of a photobase generator (PBG) into a conventional resist formulation. The PBG was optimized to function as an exposure-dependent base quencher, which mainly neutralizes the acid generated in high dose regions but has only a minor influence in low dose regions. The resulting acid concentration profile is a parabola-like function of exposure dose, and only the medium exposure dose produces a sufficient amount of acid to switch the resist solubility. This acid response is exploited to produce pitch division patterns by creating a set of negative-tone lines in the overexposed regions in addition to the conventional positive-tone lines. A number of PBGs were synthesized and characterized, and their decomposition rate constants were studied using various techniques. Simulations were carried out to assess the feasibility of pitch division lithography. It was concluded that pitch division lithography is advantageous when the process aggressiveness factor k₁ is below 0.27. Finally, lithography evaluations of these dual-tone resists demonstrated a proof-of-concept for pitch division lithography with 45 nm pitch divided line and space patterns for a k₁ of 0.13.