Somewhere around 40nm is the limit on the smallest half-pitch feature that can be formed with a single-exposure of 193-nm wavelength laser light using water immersion (193i) lithography. While multiple-patterning (MP) is needed to achieve tighter half-pitches, smaller features at the same pitch can be formed using technology extensions of 193i. “Chemistry is key player in lithography process,” is the title of a short video presentation by Dow Electronic Materials corporate fellow Peter Trefonas now hosted on the SPIE website (DOI: 10.1117/2.201608.02).
Trefonas as been working on chemistries for lithography for decades, including photoresists, antireflectant coatings, underlayers, developers, ancillary products, and environmentally safer green products. He is an inventor on 61 US patents, has over 25 additional published active U.S. patent applications, is an author of 99 journal and technical publications, and is a recipient of the 2014 ACS Heroes of Chemistry Award and the 2013 SPIE C. Grant Willson Best Paper Award in Patterning Materials and Processes. Now a Senior Member of SPIE, he earned his Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry with Prof. Robert West at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1985.
Trefonas explains how traditional Chemically-Amplified (CA) resists are engineered with Photo-Acid Generators (PAG) to balance the properties for advanced lithography. However, in recent years the ~40-nm half-pitch resolution limit has been extended with chemistries to shrink contact holes, smooth line-width roughness, and to do frequency-multiplication using Directed Self-Assembly (DSA). All of these resolution extension technologies rely upon chemistry to create the final desired pattern fidelity.
As discussed in my last Ed’s Threads, lithography has become patterning as evidenced by first use of Self-Aligned Quadruple Patterning (SAQP) in High Volume Manufacturing (HVM) of memory chips. Meanwhile, industry R&D hub imec has been investigating use of SAQP for “7nm” and “5nm” node finFET HVM, as reported as SPIE-AL this year in Paper 9782-12.
The specifications for pitches ranging from 18 to 24 nanometers are as follow:
7.0nm Critical Dimension (CD) after etch,
0.5nm (3sigma) CD uniformity (CDU), and
<1nm Line-Width and Line-End Roughness (LWR and LER) assuming 10% of CD.
“Pitch walk”—variation in final pitch after multi-patterning—results in different line widths, and can result in subsequent excessive etch variation due to non-uniform loading effects. To keep the pitch walk in SAQP at acceptable levels for the 7nm node, the core-1 CDU has to be 0.5nm 3sigma and 0.8nm range after both litho and etch. In other presentations at SPIE-AL this year, the best LER after litho was ~4nm, improving to ~2nm after PEALD smoothing of sidewalls, but still double the desired spec.
The team at imec developed a SAQP flow using amorphous-Carbon (aC) and amorphous-Silicon (aSi) as the cores, and low-temperature Plasma-Enhanced Atomic-Layer Deposition (PEALD) of SiO2 for both sets of spacers. Bilayer DARC (SiOC) and BARC were used for reflectivity control. Compared to SAQP schemes where the mandrels are only aSi, imec claims that this approach saves 20% in cost due to the use of aC core and the elimination of etch-stopping-layers.
Once upon a time, lithographic (litho) processes were all that IC fabs needed to transfer the design-intent into silicon chips. Over the last 10-15 years, however, IC device structural features have continued to shrink below half the wavelength of the laser light used in litho tools, such that additional process steps are needed to form the desired features. Self-Aligned Double Patterning (SADP) schemes use precise coatings deposited as “spacers” on the sidewalls of mandrels made from developed photoresist or a sacrificial material at a given pitch, such that after selective mandrel etching the spacers pitch-split. SADP has been used in HVM IC fabs for many years now. Self-Aligned Quadruple Pattering (SAQP) has reportedly been deployed in a memory IC fab, too.
An excellent overview of the patterning complexities of SAQP was provided by Sophie Thibaut of TEL in a presentation at SPIE-AL on “SAQP integration using spacer on spacer pitch splitting at the resist level for sub-32nm pitch applications.” Use of a spacer-on-spacer process flow—enabled by clever combinations of SiO2 and TiO2 spacers deposited by Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD)—requires the following unit-process steps:
1 193i litho,
2 ALD spacers,
2 wet etches, and
4 plasma etches.
Since non-litho processes dominate the transfer of design-intent to silicon, from first principles we should consider such integrated flows as “patterning.” Etch selectivity to remove one material while leaving another, and deposition dependent on underlying materials determine much of the pattern fidelity. Such process flows are new to IC fabs, but have been used for decades in the manufacturing of Micro-Electrical Mechanical Systems (MEMS), though generally on a patterning length scale of microns instead of the nanometers needed for advanced ICs. R&D labs today are even experimenting with Self-Aligned Octuple Patterning (SAOP), and based on the legacy of MEMS processing it certainly could be done.