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Nanolithography — or lithography at the nanometer scale — refers to the fabrication of nanometer-scale structures, meaning patterns with at least one lateral dimension between the size of an individual atom and approximately 100 nm. Nanolithography is used during the fabrication of leading-edge semiconductor integrated circuits or nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS).
As of 2007, nanolithography is a very active area of research in academia and in industry.
Additional recommended knowledge
Optical lithography, which has been the predominant patterning technique since the advent of the semiconductor age, is capable of producing sub-100-nm patterns with the use of very short wavelengths (currently 193 nm). Optical lithography will require the use of liquid immersion and a host of photomask enhancement technologies (phase-shift masks (PSM), optical proximity correction (OPC)) at the 32 nm node. Most experts feel that traditional optical lithography techniques will not be cost effective below 30 nm. At that point, it may be replaced by a next-generation lithography (NGL) technique.
Other nanolithography techniques
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.
It is possible that molecular self-assembly methods will take over as the primary nanolithography approach, due to ever-increasing complexity of the top-down approaches listed above. Self-assembly of dense lines less than 20 nm wide in large pre-patterned trenches has been demonstrated (see e.g., D. Sundrani et al., Langmuir, vol. 20, 5091-5099 (2004)). The degree of dimension and orientation control as well as prevention of lamella merging still need to be addressed for this to be an effective patterning technique. The important issue of line edge roughness is also highlighted by this technique.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Nanolithography". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|