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Photoresist is a light-sensitive material used in several industrial processes, such as photolithography and photoengraving to form a patterned coating on a surface.

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Photoresist tone

Photoresists are classified into two groups, positive resists and negative resists.A positive resist is a type of photoresist in which the portion of the photoresist that is exposed to light becomes soluble to the photoresist developer and the portion of the photoresist that is unexposed remains insoluble to the photoresist developer.

A negative resist is a type of photoresist in which the portion of the photoresist that is exposed to light becomes relatively insoluble to the photoresist developer. The unexposed portion of the photoresist is dissolved by the photoresist developer.

Absorption at UV and shorter wavelengths

Photoresists are most commonly used at wavelengths in the ultraviolet spectrum or shorter (<400 nm). For example, diazonaphthoquinone (DNQ) absorbs strongly from approximately 300 nm to 450 nm. The absorption bands can be assigned to n-p* (S0-S1) and p-p* (S1-S2) transitions in the DNQ molecule [1]. In the deep ultraviolet (DUV) spectrum, the π-π* electronic transition in benzene [2] or carbon double-bond chromophores [3] appears at around 200 nm. Due to the appearance of more possible absorption transitions involving larger energy differences, the absorption tends to increase with shorter wavelength, or larger photon energy. Photons with energies exceeding the ionization potential of the photoresist (typically 8 eV) can also release electrons which are capable of additional exposure of the photoresist. From about 8 eV to about 20 eV, photoionization of outer "valence band" electrons is the main absorption mechanism[4]. Above 20 eV, inner electron ionization and Auger transitions become more important. Photon absorption begins to decrease as the X-ray region is approached, as fewer Auger transitions between deep atomic levels are allowed for the relatively higher photon energy. The absorbed energy can drive further reactions and ultimately dissipates as heat. This is associated with the outgassing and contamination from the Photoresist.

Electron-beam exposure

Photoresists can also be exposed by electron beams, producing the same results as exposure by light. The main difference is that while photons are absorbed, depositing all their energy at once, electrons deposit their energy gradually, and scatter within the photoresist during this process. As with high-energy wavelengths, many transitions are excited by electron beams, and heating and outgassing are still a concern. The dissociation energy for a C-C bond is 3.6 eV. Secondary electrons generated by primary ionizing radiation have energies sufficient to dissociate this bond, causing scission. In addition, the low-energy electrons have a longer photoresist interaction time due to their lower speed. Scission breaks the original polymer into segments of lower molecular weight, which are more readily dissolved in a solvent.

It is not common to select photoresists for electron-beam exposure. Electron beam lithography usually relies on resists dedicated specifically to electron-beam exposure.

DNQ-Novolac photoresist

One very common positive photoresist used with the I, G and H-lines from a mercury-vapor lamp is based on a mixture of Diazonaphthoquinone (DNQ) and Novolac resin (a phenol formaldehyde resin). DNQ inhibits the dissolution of the novolac resin, however, upon exposure to light, the dissolution rate increases even beyond that of pure novolac. The mechanism by which unexposed DNQ inhibits novolac dissolution is not well understood, but is believed to be related to hydrogen bonding (or more exactly diazocoupling in the unexposed region). DNQ-novolac resists are developed by dissolution in a basic solution (usually 0.26N tetra-methyl ammonium hydroxide in water).

One very common negative photoresist is based on epoxy-based polymer. The common product name is SU-8 photoresist.

DUV photoresist

Deep Ultraviolet (DUV) resist are typically polyhydroxystyrene-based polymers with a photoacid generator providing the solubility change. However, this material does not experience the diazocoupling. The combined benzene-chromophore and DNQ-novolac absorption mechanisms lead to stronger absorption by DNQ-novolac photoresists in the DUV, requiring a much larger amount of light for sufficient exposure. The strong DUV absorption results in diminished photoresist sensitivity.

Chemical amplification

Photoresists used in production for DUV and shorter wavelengths require the use of chemical amplification to increase the sensitivity to the exposure energy. This is done in order to combat the larger absorption at shorter wavelengths. Chemical amplification is also often used in electron-beam exposures to increase the sensitivity to the exposure dose. In the process, acids released by the exposure radiation diffuse during the post-exposure bake step. These acids render surrounding polymer soluble in developer. A single acid molecule can catalyze many such 'deprotection' reactions; hence, fewer photons or electrons are needed. Acid diffusion is important not only to increase photoresist sensitivity and throughput, but also to limit line edge roughness due to shot noise statistics.[1] However, the acid diffusion length is itself a potential resolution limiter. In addition, too much diffusion reduces chemical contrast, leading again to more roughness.[1]


  1. ^ a b D. van Steenwinckel et al., J. Vac. Sci. Tech. B, vol. 24, 316-320 (2006).
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Photoresist". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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