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  1. Atomic force microscope
  2. Atomic nanoscope
  3. Atom probe
  4. Ballistic conduction
  5. Bingel reaction
  6. Biomimetic
  7. Bio-nano generator
  8. Bionanotechnology
  9. Break junction
  10. Brownian motor
  11. Bulk micromachining
  12. Cantilever
  13. Carbon nanotube
  14. Carbyne
  15. CeNTech
  16. Chemical Compound Microarray
  17. Cluster
  18. Colloid
  19. Comb drive
  20. Computronium
  21. Coulomb blockade
  22. Diamondoids
  23. Dielectrophoresis
  24. Dip Pen Nanolithography
  25. DNA machine
  26. Ecophagy
  27. Electrochemical scanning tunneling microscope
  28. Electron beam lithography
  29. Electrospinning
  30. Engines of Creation
  31. Exponential assembly
  32. Femtotechnology
  33. Fermi point
  34. Fluctuation dissipation theorem
  35. Fluorescence interference contrast microscopy
  36. Fullerene
  37. Fungimol
  38. Gas cluster ion beam
  39. Grey goo
  40. Hacking Matter
  41. History of nanotechnology
  42. Hydrogen microsensor
  43. Inorganic nanotube
  44. Ion-beam sculpting
  45. Kelvin probe force microscope
  46. Lab-on-a-chip
  47. Langmuir-Blodgett film
  48. LifeChips
  49. List of nanoengineering topics
  50. List of nanotechnology applications
  51. List of nanotechnology topics
  52. Lotus effect
  53. Magnetic force microscope
  54. Magnetic resonance force microscopy
  55. Mechanochemistry
  56. Mechanosynthesis
  57. MEMS thermal actuator
  58. Mesotechnology
  59. Micro Contact Printing
  60. Microelectromechanical systems
  61. Microfluidics
  62. Micromachinery
  63. Molecular assembler
  64. Molecular engineering
  65. Molecular logic gate
  66. Molecular manufacturing
  67. Molecular motors
  68. Molecular recognition
  69. Molecule
  70. Nano-abacus
  71. Nanoart
  72. Nanobiotechnology
  73. Nanocar
  74. Nanochemistry
  75. Nanocomputer
  76. Nanocrystal
  77. Nanocrystalline silicon
  78. Nanocrystal solar cell
  79. Nanoelectrochemistry
  80. Nanoelectrode
  81. Nanoelectromechanical systems
  82. Nanoelectronics
  83. Nano-emissive display
  84. Nanoengineering
  85. Nanoethics
  86. Nanofactory
  87. Nanoimprint lithography
  88. Nanoionics
  89. Nanolithography
  90. Nanomanufacturing
  91. Nanomaterial based catalyst
  92. Nanomedicine
  93. Nanomorph
  94. Nanomotor
  95. Nano-optics
  96. Nanoparticle
  97. Nanoparticle tracking analysis
  98. Nanophotonics
  99. Nanopore
  100. Nanoprobe
  101. Nanoring
  102. Nanorobot
  103. Nanorod
  104. Nanoscale
  105. Nano-Science Center
  106. Nanosensor
  107. Nanoshell
  108. Nanosight
  109. Nanosocialism
  110. Nanostructure
  111. Nanotechnology
  112. Nanotechnology education
  113. Nanotechnology in fiction
  114. Nanotoxicity
  115. Nanotube
  116. Nanovid microscopy
  117. Nanowire
  118. National Nanotechnology Initiative
  119. Neowater
  120. Niemeyer-Dolan technique
  121. Ormosil
  122. Photolithography
  123. Picotechnology
  124. Programmable matter
  125. Quantum dot
  126. Quantum heterostructure
  127. Quantum point contact
  128. Quantum solvent
  129. Quantum well
  130. Quantum wire
  131. Richard Feynman
  132. Royal Society's nanotech report
  133. Scanning gate microscopy
  134. Scanning probe lithography
  135. Scanning probe microscopy
  136. Scanning tunneling microscope
  137. Scanning voltage microscopy
  138. Self-assembled monolayer
  139. Self-assembly
  140. Self reconfigurable
  141. Self-Reconfiguring Modular Robotics
  142. Self-replication
  143. Smart dust
  144. Smart material
  145. Soft lithography
  146. Spent nuclear fuel
  147. Spin polarized scanning tunneling microscopy
  148. Stone Wales defect
  149. Supramolecular assembly
  150. Supramolecular chemistry
  151. Supramolecular electronics
  152. Surface micromachining
  153. Surface plasmon resonance
  154. Synthetic molecular motors
  155. Synthetic setae
  156. Tapping AFM
  157. There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom
  158. Transfersome
  159. Utility fog


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


This article discusses the modern manufacture of semiconductors. For earlier uses of photolithography in printing, please see lithography.


Karl Süss manual contact aligner for small volume processing.
Karl Süss manual contact aligner for small volume processing.

Photolithography or optical lithography is a process used in semiconductor device fabrication to transfer a pattern from a photomask (also called reticle) to the surface of a substrate. Often crystalline silicon in the form of a wafer is used as a choice of substrate, although there are several other options including, but not limited to, glass, sapphire, and metal. Photolithography (also referred to as "microlithography" or "nanolithography") bears a similarity to the conventional lithography used in printing and shares some of the fundamental principles of photographic processes.

Photolithography involves a combination of:

  • substrate preparation
  • photoresist application
  • soft-baking
  • exposure
  • developing
  • hard-baking
  • etching

and various other chemical treatments (thinning agents, edge-bead removal etc.) in repeated steps on an initially flat substrate.

A cycle of a typical silicon lithography procedure would begin by depositing a layer of conductive metal several nanometers thick on the substrate. A layer of photoresist -- a chemical that 'hardens' when exposed to light (often ultraviolet) -- is applied on top of the metal layer. A transparent plate with opaque areas printed on it, called a photomask or shadowmask, is placed between a source of illumination and the wafer, selectively exposing parts of the substrate to light. Then the photoresist is developed, in which areas of unhardened photoresist undergo a chemical change. After a hard-bake, subsequent chemical treatments etch away the conductor under the developed photoresist, and then etch away the hardened photoresist, leaving conductor exposed in the pattern of the original photomask.

A spinner used to apply photoresist to the surface of a silicon wafer.
A spinner used to apply photoresist to the surface of a silicon wafer.
The filtered fluorescent lighting in photolihography cleanrooms contains no ultraviolet or blue light in order to avoid exposing photoresists. The spectrum of light emitted by such fixtures gives virtually all such spaces a bright yellow color.
The filtered fluorescent lighting in photolihography cleanrooms contains no ultraviolet or blue light in order to avoid exposing photoresists. The spectrum of light emitted by such fixtures gives virtually all such spaces a bright yellow color.

Most types of photoresist are available in "positive" and "negative" forms. With positive resists the area that is opaque (masked) on the photomask corresponds to the area where photoresist will remain upon developing (and hence where conductor will remain at the end of the cycle). Negative resists result in the inverse, so any area that is exposed will remain, whilst any areas that are not exposed will be developed. After developing, the resist is usually hard-baked before subjecting to a chemical etching stage which will remove the metal underneath.

Lithography is used because it affords exact control over the shape and size of the objects it creates, and because it can create patterns over an entire surface simultaneously. Its main disadvantages are that it requires a substrate to start with, it is not very effective at creating shapes that are not flat, and it can require extremely clean operating conditions.

In a complex integrated circuit, (for example, CMOS) a wafer will go through the photolithographic cycle up to 50 times. For Thin-Film-Transistor (TFT) processing many fewer photolithographical processes are usually required.


A wafer is introduced onto an automated "wafertrack" system. This track consists of handling robots, bake/cool plates, and coat/develop units. The robots are used to transfer wafers from one module to another. The wafer is initially heated to a temperature sufficient to drive off any moisture that may be present on the wafer surface. Hexa-methyl-disilizane (HMDS) is applied in either liquid or vapor form in order to promote better adhesion of the photosensitive polymeric material, called photoresist. Photoresist is dispensed in a liquid form onto the wafer as it undergoes rotation. The speed and acceleration of this rotation are important parameters in determining the resulting thickness of the applied photoresist. The photoresist-coated wafer is then transferred to a hot plate, where a "soft bake" is applied to drive off excess solvent before the wafer is introduced into the exposure system.

The wafertrack portion of an aligner that utilizes 365 nm ultraviolet light.
The wafertrack portion of an aligner that utilizes 365 nm ultraviolet light.

The simplest exposure system is a contact printer or proximity printer. A contact printer involves putting a photomask in direct contact with the wafer. A proximity printer puts a small gap in between the photomask and wafer. The photomask pattern is directly imaged onto the photoresist on the wafer in both cases. The resolution is roughly given by the square root of the product of the wavelength and the gap distance. Hence, contact printing with zero gap distance ideally offers best resolution. Defect considerations have prevented its widespread use today. However, the resurgence of nanoimprint lithography may revive interest in this familiar technique, especially since the cost of ownership is expected to be very low. The cost will be low due to the lack of a need for complex optics, expensive light sources, or specially tailored resists.

The commonly used approach for photolithography today is projection lithography. The desired pattern is projected from the photomask onto the wafer in either a machine called a stepper or scanner. The stepper/scanner functions similarly to a slide projector. Light from a mercury arc lamp or excimer laser is focused through a complex system of lenses onto a "mask" (also called a reticle), containing the desired image. The light passes through the mask and is then focused to produce the desired image on the wafer through a reduction lens system. The reduction of the system can vary depending on design, but is typically on the order of 4X-5X in magnitude.

When the image is projected onto the wafer, the photoresist material undergoes some wavelength-specific radiation-sensitive chemical reactions, which cause the regions exposed to light to be either more or less acidic. If the exposed regions become more acidic, the material is called a positive photoresist, while if it becomes less susceptible it is a negative photoresist. The resist is then "developed" by exposing it to an alkaline solution that removes either the exposed (positive photoresist) or the unexposed (negative photoresist). This process takes place after the wafer is transferred from the exposure system back to the wafertrack.

Developers originally often contained sodium hydroxide (NaOH). However, sodium is considered an extremely undesirable contaminant in MOSFET fabrication because it degrades the insulating properties of gate oxides. Metal-ion-free developers such as tetramethyl ammonium hydroxide (TMAH) are now used.

A post-exposure bake is performed before developing, typically to help reduce standing wave phenomena caused by the destructive and constructive interference patterns of the incident light. The develop chemistry is delivered in a similar fashion to how the photoresist was applied. The resulting wafer is then "hardbaked" on a bake plate at high temperature in order to solidify the remaining photoresist, to better serve as a protecting layer in future ion implantation, wet chemical etching, or plasma etching.

The ability to project a clear image of a very small feature onto the wafer is limited by the wavelength of the light that is used and the ability of the reduction lens system to capture enough diffraction orders from the illuminated mask. Current state-of-the-art photolithography tools use deep ultraviolet (DUV) light with wavelengths of 248 and 193 nm, which allow minimum resist feature sizes down to 50 nm.

Optical lithography can be extended to feature sizes below 50 nm using 193 nm and liquid immersion techniques. Also termed immersion lithography, this enables the use of optics with numerical apertures exceeding 1.0. The liquid used is typically ultra-pure, deionised water, which provides for a refractive index above that of the usual air gap between the lens and the wafer surface. This is continually circulated to eliminate thermally-induced distortions. Using water will only allow NA's of up to ~1.4 but higher refractive index materials will allow the effective NA to be increased.

Tools using 157 nm wavelength DUV in a manner similar to current exposure systems have been developed. These were once targeted to succeed 193 nm at the 65 nm feature size node but have now all but been eliminated by the introduction of immersion lithography. This was due to persistent technical problems with the 157 nm technology and economic considerations that provided strong incentives for the continued use of 193 nm technology. High-index immersion lithography is the newest extension of 193 nm lithography to be considered. In 2006, features less than 30 nm were demonstrated by IBM using this technique[1]. Other alternatives are extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV), nanoimprint lithography, and contact printing. EUV lithography systems are currently under development that will use 13.5 nm wavelengths, approaching the regime of X-rays. Nanoimprint lithography is being investigated by several groups as a low-cost, non-optical alternative. Contact printing may yet be revived with the recent interest in nanoimprint lithography.

The image for the mask is originated from a computerized data file. This data file is converted to a series of polygons and written onto a square fused quartz substrate covered with a layer of chrome using a photolithographic process. A beam of electrons is used to expose the pattern defined in the data file and travels over the surface of the substrate in either a vector or raster scan manner. Where the photoresist on the mask is exposed, the chrome can be etched away, leaving a clear path for the light in the stepper/scanner systems to travel through.

X-ray lithography can be extended to an optical resolution of 15 nm by using the short wavelengths of 1 nm for the illumination. This is implemented by the proximity printing approach. The technique is developed to the extent of batch processing. The extension of the method relies on Near Field X-rays in Fresnel diffraction: a clear mask feature is "demagnified" by proximity to a wafer that is set near to a "Critical Condition". This Condition determines the mask-to-wafer Gap and depends on both the size of the clear mask feature and on the wavelength. The method is simple because it requires no lenses.

A method of pitch resolution enhancement which is gaining acceptance is double patterning. This technique increases feature density by printing new features in between pre-printed features on the same layer. It is flexible because it can be adapted for any exposure or patterning technique. The feature size is reduced by non-lithographic techniques such as etching or sidewall spacers.

Work is in progress on an optical maskless lithography tool. This uses a digital micro-mirror array to directly manipulate reflected light without the need for an intervening mask. Throughput is inherently low, but the elimination of mask-related production costs - which are rising exponentially with every technology generation - means that such a system might be more cost effective in the case of small production runs of state of the art circuits, such as in a research lab, where tool throughput is not a concern.

See also

  • Nanolithography
  • Soft lithography
  • Liquid imaging
  • Stereolithography


  1. ^ Hand, Aaron. High-Index Lenses Push Immersion Beyond 32 nm.

External links

  • Semiconductor Lithography — Overview of lithography
  • Optical Lithography Introduction — IBM site with lithography-related articles
  • Immersion Lithography Article — Shows how depth-of-focus is increased with immersion lithography
  • Photolithography — Article showing contact, proximity, and projection lithography
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