Surface Monolayer Initiated Polymerization: A Novel Means of Fabricating Sub - 100 nm Features
McCoy, Kendra Michele
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The speed of microelectronic devices is controlled by the size of the transistor gate. In order to create faster devices, the size of this transistor gate must shrink. Microlithography is the method used to define patterns in semiconductor devices, and it is optimized periodically to create smaller features. It is a subtractive process that relies on the selective removal of sections of a photosensitive polymeric film called photoresist. This photoresist is exposed to patterned ultraviolet radiation that changes the local solubility of the film and allows for the creation of relief patterns in the resist using a developing solvent. Decreasing the wavelength of the light used to expose the patterns is the primary method for decreasing the minimum feature size that can be printed by this process. There are a number of challenges associated with decreasing the exposure wavelength for conventional lithographic processes. First of all, the polymeric films must be transparent at the exposure wavelength in order to allow light to propagate through the entire thickness of the film. Secondly, there is a limit in the thickness of the photoresist films that can be used. This thickness limits the etch resistance of the film. In fact, the issues concerning etch resistance and transparency are generally in opposition. This makes designing photoresist platforms for future lithographic applications very difficult. Therefore, to overcome these limitations, we are developing an unconventional approach to microlithography. In our approach, entitled Surface Monolayer Initiated Polymerization, polymer structures are formed on a surface by polymerizing a monomer in a patterned fashion using a self-assembled monolayer that can be locally activated to initiate the reaction. This process has been demonstrated by creating patterned polystyrene films on native silicon dioxide surfaces. In these initial studies, it took more than one day to create features. This is unacceptable for a lithographic application. The kinetics of all the processes involved in making these patterned layers is described. Along with these rate constants, means of optimizing these rates are also presented. Additionally, the patterns grown in these initial studies exhibited poor uniformity. Methods of optimizing the patterns formed are also presented.