Effect of Nanoscale Confinement on the Physical Properties of Polymer Thin Films
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The behavior of polymeric systems confined into thin films is a situation that has numerous practical consequences. One particular application in which the properties of thin polymer films is becoming crucially important is in the design, formulation, and processing of photoresists for semiconductor microlithography. As devices continue to be scaled down into the nano-regime, the microelectronics industry will ultimately rely upon a molecular understanding of materials for process development. The majority of these devices are now confined in planar geometries; thus, thin films have played an ever-increasing role in manufacturing of modern electronic devices. This movement towards thinner resist films creates larger surface to volume ratios, and hence thin films can exhibit thermodynamic, structural, and dynamic properties that are different from those of the bulk material. It is thus extremely important to understand the properties of polymers when confined in such geometries for various applications including resists for lithographic patterning. In present work, the influence of a variety of factors including film thickness, molecular weight, and substrate interactions on the polymer thin film physical properties such as the glass transition temperature, coefficient of thermal expansion, dissolution rate, and diffusion coefficient was studied in detail using a combination of experimental characterization and molecular modeling simulation techniques.