Current status of EUV lithography

It is undeniable that extreme ultra-violet lithography has progressed in an extraordinary way in the last 12 months.

Until recently, it was not commonly agreed upon in the lithography industry whether EUV litho would have made it to full production or HVM (high-volume manufacturing) at all.

Naysayers were pointing to the fact that the power of the light source was lagging much behind the level needed for HVM and that the issues in mask defectivity control and in resist development were far from being addressed properly.

Fortunately enough, in the last 12 months huge progress has been made in most if not all areas of EUV litho:

1. Light source development

Most of EUV pundits believe that light source power is the single most important issue for successful EUV lithography development and most resource investment related to EUCV has been focused in achieving a light source powerful enough to sustain high-volume manufacturing requirements.

Only one year ago, TSMC was having problems in breaking the 10W barrier while now the same company made public their results and claimed they were able to achieve an impressive 1000 wafers processed in a single day with a 80W source.

The two major companies behind EUV light source development, Cymer and Gigaphoton, are both claiming to be on track to achieve a 125W power source by the end of this year with a 250W light source on the horizon for next year.

Cymer claims to have a 100W power source running in their labs with 3.5% conversion efficiency and based on a 15KW laser which they hope to be able to upgrade to 5.5% conversion efficiency using a 27KW laser by next year at latest, which would mean 250W of light source power, well enough for high volume manufacturing

Gigaphoton, on the other hand, recently issued a press release announcing to have a light-source running at 142W with 50% duty cycle (=71W at 100% duty cycle), a significant improvement from last December when they claimed to have a 120W working at 50% duty cycle. Gigaphoton made clear that they are now looking for achieving 250W in “burst mode” before being able to expand the source availability.

While neither Gigaphoton nor Cymer have any plans for light sources beyond the 500W mark, Free Electron Lasers are now being considered by other players as a viable route to step into the 500W~10000W range which is what will be needed for high-NA scanner machines.

2. High-NA scanners

Carl Zeiss is currently working on improving the optics quality and based on this, ASML is now hoping to be able to achieve numerical aperture (NA) of 0.5 up from the current mark of 0.33 which would allow to reach a couple of nodes beyond 10nm without the need of multiple patterning using EUV.

3. Resists

Resist development has been an issue mostly disregarded by EUV pundits until recently as all the attention went to what was considered as the major hurdle for full development of EUV litho, that is, the availability of a light source powerful enough for HVM.

Since now the problems with light source development seem to be on track to be solved, attention is back to other aspects of EUV litho development such as resist.

Due to strict requirements it takes quite some time, even 1~3 years at least, to have a resist validated for full production so it has now become imperative to address this issue as well.

Much of the recent work is now behind negative-tone CAR resists, while Intel is working with resist makers on HfO2-based resists trying to improve their shelf-life from the current range of few weeks to a few months or more.

The advantage of metal oxide-based resists is that they have high absorption properties and therefore they can allow the use of light sources with lower power.

Other areas of development where control in EUV mask defectivity, with Hoya showing promising results in reducing the mask blank defects, and mask defect inspection, with Carl Zeiss announcing their upcoming tool specifically targeted at EUV mask inspection by the end of this year .

Principles of Light Sources for Lithography

It has been proven that the design lenses which images near the diffraction are limited only over narrow bandwidths in wavelength. This is a consequence of the phenomenon of dispersion where index of refraction changes with the wavelength of the light.

spectrum of color by prism

Figure 1: White light is broken into a spectrum of color by prism

Glass has an optical property by which white light is changed by a prism into a spectrum of separated colors. Moreover, it can even vary the bandwidth of light produced by a line-narrowed laser. Thus, it is necessary for lens designer to include corrections for the varying optical property of glass materials over the bandwidth of light. But there are limits to range of wavelengths over which lenses can be color corrected i.e. maintaining practical size and reasonable costs.

Consequently, high resolution stepper lenses image only over a fairly narrow range of wavelengths. Moreover, intense light sources are needed for cost effective stepper throughput, so exposer systems for optical lithography have operated and will continue to operate at wavelengths for which there are intense sources of illuminations over narrow bandwidths. This has led to a short list of possible light sources for use in lithography. But there are some benefits on the restrictions to particular standard wavelengths-

  • Additional technology that depends upon the wavelength is required.
  • Manufacturers need to develop resists that will perform optimally at the specific wavelengths used.
  • Pellicles need to be optimized for the specific wavelengths used.
  • Limited number of wavelengths at which lithography is practiced enables R&D resources to be well focused.

Mercury-arc lamps and excimer lenses have been the sources of actinic light for nearly all projection in photolithography (actinic light: Radiation that can induce chemical reactions in photoresists is term actinic). The lines of the Mercury spectrum and excimer lasing wavelengths used in lithography are listed in table 1.

Class of light source

Specific type


Location in the electromagnetic spectrum



436 nm



405 nm



365 nm



240 -255 nm


Excimer lasers


248 nm

deep-ultraviolet (DUV)


193 nm

deep-ultraviolet (DUV)


157 nm

vacuum-ultraviolet (VUV)

Table 1: Light Sources used in Photolithography

The mercury-arc lamp has three intense spectral lines in the blue and ultraviolet portions of the electromagnetic spectrums (i.e. mentioned in table 1) along with some continuum emission in between these spectral lines.

g-line: Basically, mercury g-line is blue light (λ = 436 nm) in the visible part of spectrum. The first commercial available wafer stepper, the GCA DSW4800, was operated at the mercury g-line, as did the first steppers of Nikon, Canon, ASML, and TRE, which are built based upon the same concept with GCADSW4800. (TRE was an early supplier of wafer stepper which later changed their name to ASET and discontinued in the early 1990s)

Stepper lenses designed to meet the extreme resolution and field size requirements of microlithography are only over a very narrow range of wavelengths. For mercury-arc lamp based systems, this has been over the bandwidths of the arc lamps, i.e. 4-6 nm. These bandwidths are much larger than the natural bandwidths of mercury atomic emissions because of the collision (pressure) and thermal (Doppler) broadening that can be considerable in a high-pressure arc lamp operating at temperatures approaching 2000°C.

Some systems are built by Ultratech images over broader range of wavelengths (390-450 nm), but these have resolutions limited to 0.75 µm or larger. This use of multiple wavelengths has significant advantage in terms of reducing standing-wave effects, which Utlratech steppers utilized effectively for lithography at ≥1.0 µm feature size. Unfortunately, the reticle quality of broadband Ultratech lens design, which prints the reticle at 1:1 ratio, has largely prevented the use of Ultratech steppers for critical applications in deep sub-micron lithography. Aside from Ultratech lenses, there are few more lenses imaging at both the g- and h-lines but with limited acceptance.

h-line: While the Mercury h-line was used on a few wafer steppers, most of the stepper manufacturers made a transition to i-line lithography in the late 1980s as the need to print submicron features, while maintaining depth-of-focus ≥1.0 µm, arise.

i-line: Mercury i-line dominated as the leading-edge light source for lithography until the advent of deep-UV lithography in the mid-1990s.

DUV: There is a strong band of DUV emission (λ= 240 – 255 nm) from mercury-xenon arc lamps and these were used on early DUV exposure tools, such as the Micrascan I and Micrascan II from SVGL. Most of the DUV systems today use excimer lasers as light sources with higher resolution versions of Micrascan platforms and a bandwidth requirement of less than 1.0 pm.

Mercury-arc Lamp Structure and Operation

In Figure 2 a fused silica bulb is filled through a tip with a small quantity of mercury and argon or xenon, which, once filled up, is sealed. Operation is initiated by applying a high-frequency high voltage (> 10 kV) across the two electrodes and ionize the insert gas. The resulting discharge evaporates the mercury, and the mercury begins to contribute to the discharge. The plasma, being electronically conducting, cannot support such high voltage, so the voltage drops. A steady lamp output is maintained by operating the lamp at constant current at relatively low DC voltages, i.e. 50V-150V, where high voltage is needed to ignite the plasma. Condensation of mercury on the cooler walls of the bulb near the electrodes is inhibited by reflective coatings. Pressure inside the bulb can exceed 30 atm during operation and catastrophic failure is always a concern. The electrodes are made of refractory metals such as tungsten in order to withstand the internal temperatures that can be as high as 2000°C. Thorium coatings are used to reduce the electrode work functions and provide electrons to the plasma more easily.

Mercury-arc Lamp Structure

Figure 2: Mercury-arc Lamp Structure

During the operation, electrode material is gradually deposited onto the insides of the bulb, which reduces light output. Lamps are usually replaced after several hundred hours of operation in order to maintain high stepper throughput. The probability of a lamp explosion also increases with time and the prevention of such explosion is another reason why lamps are replaced at the end of their rated lives. The two most common mechanism of catastrophic failure are degradation of glass-metal seals or fracture of the glass bulb.

Less than 1% electrical power supplied to mercury-arc lamp is converted to actinic light. The rest of energy is heat that is removed by the air exhaust and cooling water, the air exhaust also serves as a safety function. Improved stability of light output has also been obtained by monitoring and controlling the external lamp temperature which will exceed 700°C. As a practical matter, the lamp base temperature typically between 150°C and 200°C, is more easily measured than the bulb temperature. Temperature control is obtained by adjusting the air exhaust.

Excimer Lasers Light Source

Another light source applied to lithography is the excimer laser. Excimer lasers are much larger and more complicated than arc lamps. Because of their size, installing excimer laser machines inside the cleanroom will occupy floor space, which is expensive. Thus, excimer lasers are usually placed outside of the cleanroom (mentioned in below Figure 3). The intrinsic directionality of the laser light enables the lasers to be placed up to 25 meters away from the stepper and the light will delivered by a series of mirrors and lenses without a significant loss of energy.

Configuration of Excimer Laser Light Sources

Figure 3: Configuration of Excimer Laser Light Sources – Lasers is placed far from the stepper.

Excimer Laser’s Subsystems

Excimer laser consist of several subsystems (shown in figure 4). A high repetition rate is desirable for these pulsed light systems and excimer laser suppliers have improved the available rates from 200 Hz to 2 kHz and now to 4 kHz. The higher rates allow for high doses in short times without requiring high peak light intensities and this reduces damage to optical elements. Measurements for stepper self-metrology take place no faster than permitted by the excimer laser frequency, so stepper set-up time is reduced with high repetition rate lasers

Schematic of an excimer laser

Figure 4: Schematic of an excimer laser – key subcomponents

Faster exchange rates place significantly greater requirements on fans and motors with attendant concerns for reliability degradation. In principle, glass damage can be reduced by “stretching” the pulses from their current length of 25-30 nsecs, reducing the peak energy as well as the pulse bandwidth.

An example of starched pulse is shown in figure 5.

Excimer laser power vs. time for a normal and starched pulse

Figure 5: Excimer laser power vs. time for a normal and starched pulse from a Cymer ArF excimer laser.

Because laser pulse intensity does not evolve symmetrically in time, temporal pulse length needs definition. The most commonly used definition is the integral-squared pulse width, which is the most relevant definition of pulse duration equation to the issue of glass damage.

τ=[∫I(t)dt ]²/∫I2 (t)dt

The requirements for the laser gases increased the cost of installation of excimer laser steppers relative to costs for arc lamps (listed in table 2).

ARC Lamps

KrF Excimer Lasers

Availability 99.5% 97%
Cost for consumables $40,000 / Year $100,000 / Year
Installation Costs $1000 – $10,000 / Stepper $100,000 / Stepper

Table 2: Cost of Operation of Lithography Light Sources

Moreover, fluorine gases have a couple of safety requirements that needs to be addressed by an innovative solid source for fluorine. Fluorine leads to the etching of silicon dioxide. The windows of the excimer laser are typically made of calcium fluoride. But laser gases must be pure because impurities will cause degradation of laser performance. Since fluorine is a primary excimer laser gas, special materials must be used for handling this very chemically reactive gas.

Beam Delivery systems

Beam delivery systems involve another expense associated with excimer laser steppers that does not exist on arc lamp systems where the illumination source is built into the stepper. Main purpose of the beam delivery system is to provide an optical path from the excimer laser, which usually located outside of the cleanroom to the wafer stepper. Basically beam delivery system is a set of tubes contains lenses and mirrors through which the DUV light traverses the distance between laser and stepper (mentioned in figure 5). Performance of imaging optics required alignment of the input beam to within 1 deg, positioned to within 150 µm, while laser may be separated from the stepper by as much as 25 meter. This place tight constraints on tolerate levels of vibration throughput an extended part of the fabrication. Maintaining the 150 µm placement of a beam delivered from 10 meters away requires 3-arc sec of angular control. A robust way to ensure good alignment of the laser beam is to employ active beam sensing and control of the mirrors in the beam delivery unit.

Beam Delivery System Structure

It contains optics to address the natural beam divergence of an excimer laser. Laser beam of cross section 1 cm x 2 cm diverge to 5 mrad and 2 mrad, respectively. At the distance of 25 meter beam spreads to a cross section in excess of 13= cm x 6 cm without optics to refocus the beam. It also requires mirrors to bend the beam around obstructions between the laser – stepper and lenses require antireflection coatings to maintain the light intensity at the actinic wavelength and also at an optical wavelength that usually 632.8 nm (HeNe laser). It also enclosed and often purged with nitrogen to avoid photochemically deposited contaminants on the optical elements. Lenses and mirrors require coatings to be resistant to damage by high intensity light. The gas inside the lasers requires periodic replacements since small amounts of impurities in the gas reduce lasing efficiency and can deposit coatings on windows.

There is a direct relationship between the maximum scan speed and the number of pluses required to achieve a specified dose –

Ws= Vmn/f

ws is the slit width

Vm is maximum wafer stage scan speed

n is the minimum number of pulses required to achieve specified dose i.e. also related to dose control

f is laser repetition rate

The standard variation of the dose σD is related to the pulse to pulse variation σp-p

σD= σp-p/√n

If σp-p is large then n cannot be too small or this will be an inadequate dose control.

KrF and ArF Excimer Lasers

In KrF excimer lasers, excited dimers are created by placing a strong electric field across a gas mixture containing Kr, F2and Ne. Early excimer lasers required voltages > 20 kV and many components failed from high-voltage breakdown. A high voltage is used to produce and electrical discharge which in turn and drives the reactions which ultimately result in lasing (reactions are in table 3).

F2 + e- –> F- + F Negative Fluorine Production
Kr + e- –> Kr* + e-Kr* + e- –> Kr+ + 2e- Two-step positive krypton production
Kr+ + F- + Ne –> KrF* + Ne Excimer formation
KrF*–> Kr + F + hv Spontaneous emission
KrF* + hv –> Kr + F + 2hv Stimulated emission
F + F + Ne –> F2 + Ne Recombination

Table 3: Chemical Reactions in KrF and ArF Excimer Lasers

Reliability has improved through the laser designs that require lower voltages in the range of 12 – 15 kV to produce the electrical components. Excimer lasers produce light in pulses at rates up to several kilohertz. This has been a transition from thyratron-based discharging electronics to solid-state electronics and this has also contributed to improvements in laser reliability. This improvement in excimer light sources has played a critical role in bringing DUV lithography to production worthiness. To appreciate the degree of reliability required for use in manufacturing consider that modern KrF and ArF excimer lasers are capable of pulsing at 4 kHz with a duty factor of only 10%.

The unnarrowed fluorescence spectrum for the KrF emission is shown in figure 6. There is sufficient gain over only part of this spectrum for lasing about 400 pm. Free running ArF have lasers similarly broad bandwidths with full width half-maxima of about 450 pm. These line widths are much too large for use with all-refractive optics and require narrowing for catadioptric lenses as well.

KrF* fluorescence spectrum

Figure 6: KrF* fluorescence spectrum

KrF lasers have a natural bandwidth of approximately 300 pm which is too wide for high resolution wafers steppers. All-refractive optics require bandwidth of < 1.0 pm and even catadioptric, moderate-NA systems require bandwidth < 100 pm. The requirements of catadioptric lenses are met easily while the line narrowing demanded by all refractive lenses has presented a challenge to laser designers. For refractive systems there is a need to be able to vary the center wavelength in a controlled manner and this wavelength is tunable over a range of up to 400 pm.

Prisms are sufficient to narrow the bandwidth for application to catadioptric systems. The different options are demonstrated in figure 7.

Different types of bandwidth narrowing optics

Figure 7: Different types of bandwidth narrowing optics

Etalons are based upon the transmission properties of light through a transparent, parallel, plane plate. If the reflectance from an individual surface of the plate is R, then the transmitted intensity through the plate It is normalized to the incident light intensity Ii

It / Ii = 1 / (1 + F Sin2C δ/2)


δ = 4 π / λ nt cosθ


F = 4R / (1 – R)2

In these above equations –

t is the thickness of the parallel plate

θ is the angle of incidence

n is the refractive index of the plate

λ is the wavelength of the light

Resulting light is shown in figure 8

Transmitted light intensity vs. δ through an etalon

Figure 8: Transmitted light intensity vs. δ through an etalon

Because of their high resolving power, etalons are used to measure wavelength and bandwidth with the intensity reduced sufficiently to avoid damage. All refractive optics requires very good control of the wavelength. Variations of the wavelength center-line can cause shifts in focus distortion and other aberrations.

For ArF lasers, there is a carbon spectral line at 193.0905 nm that is used to establish absolute wavelength calibration. F2 lasers emit over two fairly distinct peaks, as shown in figure 10, and laser optics only need to eliminate one of the peaks. It is expected that the 157 – nm lithography, if ever practiced, will use this remaining peak perhaps with some narrowing.

Spectrum of an unnarrowed F2 laser

Figure 9: Spectrum of an unnarrowed F2 laser – The curve labeled “b” is 8x that is curve “a”


Cymer introduced a two-chamber laser system known as Master Oscillator Power Amplifier (MOPA) which produces light with less spatial coherence then typical injection locking lasers. In MOPA first chamber, the master oscillator is used to create a laser pulse with a narrow bandwidth. This pulse is then injected to second chamber, the power amplifier which amplifies the signals. There is an inactive discharge in the amplifier chamber that must be synchronized with the pulse generated in the master oscillator. Cymer’s MOPA differs from traditional injection locking by not having resonator optics as part of amplifier chamber and this allows for reduced levels of spatial coherence. Lambda-Physik has also introduced a two-chamber excimer laser system for lithography applications. Gigaphoton has introduced a laser with resonator optics in the power amplifier stage, which appears to produce light with spatial coherence that is low enough for lithographic applications.

MOPA Configuration

Figure 10: MOPA Configuration

Table 4 litsts the objective narrow bandwidth and high output of these dual chamber lasers. The bandwidth, whether measured in terms of full-width-half-maximum (FWHM) or E95%, which is the bandwidth containing 95% of the light energy, is cut in half on the dual chamber lasers relative to single chambers lasers. Output power, on the other hand, is doubled.

Cymer Nanolith 7000 (Single Chamber) Cymer XL-100(MOPA) Lambda – Physik Gigaphoton GT40A (MOPA)
Pulse energy 5 mJ 10 mJ > 12.5 mJ 15 mJ
Power 20W 40W > 50W 60W
Spectral bandwidth (FWHM) ≤ 0.5 pm ≤ 0.25 pm ≤ 0.25 pm ≤ 0.18 pm
Spectral bandwidth (E95%) ≤ 1.3 pm ≤ 0.65 pm ≤ 0.55 pm ≤ 0.15 pm

Table 4: Objective Bandwidth and Power Output of Each Chamber Lasers

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Light Sources Used in Photolithography

Lithography comes from the Greek words lithos, which means ‘stone’, and graphein, which means ‘to write’.  It is the process used to print by transferring a mirror image of the pattern from the flat surface. It was developed in 1976 by Alois Senefelder, a German writer and actor, as a cheaper method of printing theatrical publications. Since then, lithography has been one of the preferred printing techniques, especially in publication companies.

Lithography is also used in semiconductor industry as a method for printing the layout of integrated circuits onto the wafer. The layout is patterned in a mask and then transferred to a light sensitive layer of the wafer substrate. This lithography process used in microfabrication of integrated circuits is called photolithography (sometimes referred to as optical lithography, or UV lithography).


Photolithography involves several steps as demonstrated in Figure 1. Each of these steps is briefly discussed below but this article will focus more on the light sources used during mask exposure.

Photolithography Process

Figure 1. Photolithography Process Steps: (a) wafer cleaning and adhesion promotion; (b) photoresist application; (c)pre-bake; (d) alignment and exposure; (e)development; (f) photoresist removal.

1. Surface Preparation (Wafer Cleaning, Adhesion Promotion)

The patterns in photolithography are formed in a light sensitive material called photoresist. However, photoresists usually do not adhere very well on the wafer surface. Thus, prior photoresist application, the wafer surface is treated with wet chemicals to remove any contaminations on it (i.e. atmospheric dust, coarse particles, and bacteria) and with liquid or gaseous adhesion promoter to assist photoresist coating.

2. Photoresist Application (Spin Coating)

Photoresist is applied on the wafer through spin coating wherein the wafer, with liquid photoresist solution dispensed on it, is spun rapidly. As the wafer spins the excess resist are tossed out of it, leaving a solid resist with a thickness of 0.1 to 2.0 micrometer.

3. Pre-Bake (Soft Bake)

After spin coating, the photoresist film is baked to evaporate the residual solvent on it and to densify the resist layer.  This step usually thins out the resist layer by 25% of the original thickness.

4. Alignment

An integrated circuit is comprised of layers of different patterns properly aligned to one another. To ensure accurate overlaying of each layer, every photolithography process undergoes alignment procedure.

5. Exposure and Development

Exposing the photoresist to light induces photochemical reactions on it, wherein a portion of the resist becomes soluble to a chemical solution known as developer.  There are two types of photoresists: positive and negative photoresists. Positive photoresists are typically insoluble to developer but once exposed to light become soluble. Negative photoresists, on the other hand, are soluble to developer when unexposed and become insoluble when exposed to light.

In IC microfabrication, the pattern is reproduced in the photoresist film by selectively exposing the resist with light. The master IC pattern is projected through a glass sheet called photomask covered by an opaque material like chromium, in which the pattern is laid out. The projected image is transferred to the photoresist, forming an image of the pattern onto the wafer

6. Post-Bake (Hard Bake)

After the photoresist exposure, the wafer is baked to remove any traces of the developer in the photoresist film, and to solidify and stabilize the developed film. Post bake is an optional step and is not important for cases that require soft photoresist like metal lift off patterning.

7. Photoresist Removal (Stripping)

Once the developed layer is stabilized, the photoresist must be stripped off the substrate using a solution that removes the adhesion of the photoresist on the substrate. Another method of photoresist removal is by etching it with oxygen, and then oxidizes it.

Light Sources in Photolithography

Image projection from photomask to the wafer is executed on a tool called wafer stepper. To meet the trend on smaller, faster and more complicated chips, wafer steppers must print at higher resolution with cost-effective throughput by using narrow bandwidth and intense light sources, which has limited the types of light that can be used in photolithography.

Mercury Arc Lamps

Mercury Arc Lamp

Figure 2. Mercury Arc Lamp (photo courtesy of Forter)

Earlier steppers are operated using the light from mercury-arc lamps at spectral lines of g-line. Mercury g-line is a visible blue light with a wavelength of 436 nanometers. But as the size of the transistors shrunk, the need to print at finer features forced the manufacturers to shift to the h-line spectrum at 405 nanometers of wavelength and then later to i-line at 365 nanometers.

Mercury arc lamps maintain a steady state output through a constant current at DC voltage of 50 to 150 Volts. The process starts by plasma ignition at high frequency of 10 kilovolts or higher across its positive (cathode) and negative (anode) electrodes. This ionizes the inert gas (mercury and argon or xenon) inside the bulb,   then evaporates and contributes it to the discharge. However, the resulting plasma does not have enough energy to support high voltage conduction; hence, voltage will drop between 50 to 150 Volts.

Operating at high electric charge can increase the temperature inside the bulb to as high as 2000 °C. At this level there is a possibility that condensed form of the inert gas will accumulate at the sides of the bulb with lower temperature. As a preventive measure against condensation, reflective coatings were placed at both ends of the bulbs. Moreover, for the electrodes to survive such temperature, electrodes made from refractory metals like tungsten were used in the bulb.

The two catastrophic failures that the mercury arc lamps usually experience are light output degradation and bulb fracture. As the bulb conducts, some of its electrodes get deposited inside the bulb, which reduces light output and lowers the stepper’s throughput. In addition to that, the pressure inside the bulb can exceed 30 atm as the lamp operates, increasing the possibility for the bulb to crack. To maintain the efficiency of the stepper and to prevent lamp explosion, the lamp is replaced after several hours of operation.

Aside from lamp replacement, mercury arc lamp users also employed air exhaust adjustment as a safety measure against catastrophic failures. In mercury arc lamps, only less than 1% of the power supplied were converted to actinic light (the light usable for photolithograph) while the rest are used by the exhaust air adjustment. Air exhaust adjustment removes any excess mercury in case of lamp explosion. Moreover, it improves the stability of light output by monitoring and controlling lamp temperature. Voltage and current are also monitored and controlled as part of failure prevention procedures.  Lastly, since some of the materials in the mercury arc lamp are hazardous to the environment like the toxic mercury and radioactive thorium, chemical handling and disposal and procedures are established and properly executed by the users.

In mid 1990s, deep UV (DUV) mercury -xenon arc lamps emerged. This type of DUV system have a wavelength of 200 to 240 nanometers. However, as Moore’s Law predicted, the number of transistors in an integrated circuit continued to double over time (approximately every two years) and mercury arc lamps can no longer support such requirement. Thus, when excimer lasers were proposed in photolithography, most of the mercury arc lamp users shifted to this technology.

Excimer Laser

Excimer lasers offered a better resolution than mercury arc lamps. With a bandwidth requirement of one picometer or less, the industry was able to shrink the transistors to below 45 nanometers using excimer lasers. Excimer lasers are gas-based, pulsed light systems, producing light through pulses at a rate of 4 kHz. Pulsing at higher rates allows emission of an intense amount of light at a short period of time without inducing any damage on the optical components. The system uses mainly inert (Kr, Ar, Xe) and halide (F, Cl) gases charged with strong electric field. In photolithography, one of the most commonly used excimer laser is the KrF laser or krypton fluoride laser. The repetition rate of KrF lasers is 4 kHz at a duty factor of 10% can be equated to about 12.6 billion pulses/year.

Excimer lasers are operated at larger and more complex machines than mercury arc lamps. These systems are often installed far away from the stepper, outside the clean room, to save clean room floor space. Because of their intrinsic directionality, excimer lasers can be placed as far as 25 meters away from the stepper. The light is delivered by a beam delivery unit – an optical path from the laser to the stepper comprised of a series of mirrors and lenses aligned along the path, cancelling any significant loss of energy travels, which may have been brought by the distance that the light travels. The mirrors in the unit bends the beam to avoid any obstructions along the path. While the optical lenses takes care of the divergence of the laser. Proper alignment is maintained by the beam delivery unit through mirror controls and active beam sensors. Moreover, its lenses have antireflective coatings to maintain the light intensity and beam alignment. Beam delivery units were enclosed and flushed with nitrogen to keep the lasers from any contaminants. In Class-I laser systems, this enclosure also serves as a protection for the lenses and mirrors from high intensity light damage and as a safeguard for the manufacturing operators from DUV light that wanders away from the path.

Excimer Lasers Installation Configuration

Figure 3: Excimer Lasers Installation Configuration

One major barrier on production usage of excimer lasers are the fallouts on electrical components because of the stress induced by the high voltage requirement of the machine.  Fortunately, the 20 kilovolts supply needed to produce an electrical discharge that will generate laser light was later reduced to 12 to 15 kilovolts. This voltage reduction has minimized the stress on electrical components, improving the laser’s reliability. Moreover, improvements were also seen during the evolution of laser technology from thyrathrone-based electronics to solid-state electronics.

Like mercury arc lamps, excimer lasers were also been challenged by possible cracking, which is in laser’s case, glass damage at higher power. To minimize glass damage, peak energy was reduced by lengthening the light pulses. But it should be carefully taken note that the system’s total energy should not be affected by the peak energy reduction. Moreover, longer pulses will also reduce the laser’s bandwidth.

Another concern on excimer lasers is increasing their repetition rate further than 4 kHz. Its repetition rate is limited by the facility of gas replacement on the electrodes. Fluorine gas must be continuously replenished because of the high atomic level of fluorine that will cause instabilities on the system.  The fluorine gas used in one pulse must be replenished before the next cycle. If the repetition rate is further increased, the time between pulses will decrease, which means gas replenishment must be performed at a faster rate. But there are reliability concerns in faster replenishment rates one of it is the need for better fans and motors. Over time, gas refilling has improved by replacing the materials used as insulator and seals from organic materials like Teflon to ceramic and pure metal materials.

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Gigaphoton making progress with both EUV and 450mm-wafer lithography technology


Gigaphoton, a major lithography source maker based in Japan, is currently making stable but sustained progress in two different areas of the lithography market: 450mm-wafer litho and EUV (extreme ultra violet lithography).

In the quest led by ASML towards a stable, high-power EUV lithography system, Gigaphoton has moved away from the traditional approach led by Cymer and explored an original technology: laser-produced plasma (LPP). Working since 2002 on this field, the Oyama, Japan-based company had now achieved a 43W light output which represents another milestone in pursue of the 250W EUV light source that is necessary for having a high-volume manufacturing-ready stepper machine.

Light-source power is now deemed by many analysts as the number-one issue preventing EUV lithography from reaching mass adoption

Cymer now claims to have a 105W light-source soon ready, but the traditional approach pursued by the American manufacturer, recently acquired by ASML, is taking more time than expected.

Gigaphoton is hoping that their approach to light sources for HWM-steppers can be quicker and give more robust results.

Despite their inferior power output in comparison with Cymer, Gigaphoton expects their LPP technology to scale faster and expect to be able to reach a 250W output in a couple of years.

LPP light source generate EUV light by irradiating tin droplets using a solid-state laser and then using a main CO2 laser as the main source.

Among the various technical issues that the company has been facing, the main one has probably been debris mitigation, which has been partially solved with the use of superconducting magnets.

The Japanese company has however made lots of strides in another field: 450-mm wafer lithography technology

450mm wafers are not expected to become mainstream in the semiconductor industry at least until 2017-2018, and there are many analysts that suggest that the move from 300mm to 450mm-wafers may not happen at all.

However, the big names in the semiconductor industry (Intel, TSMC, IBM among others), are investing heavily to promote the technology and instituted the Global 450C consortium based in Albany, NY, fully dedicated at the development of all the ecosystem needed to create a successful transition in the industry from 300mm- to 450mm- wafer lithography, including all the wafer-testing process, the prototyping and R&D phase and the high-volume equipment

450mm-wafer lithography is still in its infancy, and the ArF lasers required for the first steppers require a highly stable, energy profile with a greatly improved overlay accuracy
Gigaphoton, who has collaborated with G450C since the very beginning, has recently announced that their ArF laser will be used for the first G450C immersion lithography steppers. Gigaphoton is now striving to become the number one light source provider.

While adoption of EUV for 450mm-wafers is forecasted to happen not before the end of this decade at the earliest, it is clear that Gigaphoton is now one or the only company who can play a relevant role in both technologies for the light-source part.

Hitoshi Tomaru, President and CEO of Gigaphoton, said that œwe are all very excited to be part of the ground-braking work done at G450C. We [Gigaphoton] are fully committed to offer products and continue to invest to achieve the best results in the research and development of high-quality advanced lithography systems.

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