Limitations of Proximity Lithography Printing: Simulations, Experiments, and Applications

Photolithography is one of the earliest technologies used to transfer patterns to a substrate. It is also known as optical lithography since it uses light to transfer the pattern. The main exposure techniques exist in the industry are projection printing, contact printing, and proximity printing. Projection printing technology uses optical elements between mask and wafer to project the feature on the mask to the wafer. This is very expensive and delivers the highest resolution. In contact printing, the mask and wafer are in contact with each other and in proximity printing, the mask is kept at some proximity distance away from the wafer. Proximity printing is an easy and cost effective printing technique because the damage to the mask will be less and also no optical elements between mask and wafer are used. The main drawback of the proximity printing is the diffraction effect caused by the proximity gap between mask and wafer, which limits the resolution. The main objective of this thesis is to study the limitations of proximity printing and to increase its resolution. To study the limitations, different types of design strategies and verification methods are used in the thesis. First is the simulation technique which is performed with GenISys Layout LAB. This is specially designed for proximity printing. The software gives the aerial image and final resist pattern as output. The most interesting and important aspect is the second verification technique which is the experimental setup. A measurement setup has been built to study the light propagation from different masks and to study the aerial image at different proximity gaps. The setup is known as High Resolution Interference Microscopy (HRIM). The setup is basically a Mach- Zehnder interferometer having different light sources, sample plane and reference arm which are used according to the samples. The final verification is achieved using the mask aligner. Both the simulation and experiments are carried out using a special illumination optics called MO exposure optics from Süss MicroOptics. The thesis mainly focuses on the rule based optical proximity correction a technique which is a simple method for mass production. Correction structures are designed for one dimensional and two dimensional features in amplitude masks. Adding lines near the edge to improve the edge slope will be discussed as the one dimensional correction. The different intensity cutting planes and the comparison between simulation and experimental results will be discussed along with that. A unified correction structure is designed to solve corner rounding problem and will be studied as the two dimensional study. The structure is defined to print different line widths at single proximity gap on single exposure. Usually, all the structures in the amplitude mask are studied with their aerial image intensities at different proximity gaps. But, here the study extends to phase evaluation also. The measurement technique can measure both intensity and phase evolution from the mask structures. Phase evolution from amplitude correction features will be discussed and how the phase modulates the intensity patterns is also studied. The role of fundamental principles like phase singularities, phase shifts are also discussed to find its effects on proximity printing structures. The study also leads to the intensity and phase propagation from phase shifting mask (PSM) . The structure evaluated is a group of corners in PSM.

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