As the size scale of device features becomes ever smaller, conventional lithographic processes become increasingly more difficult and expensive, especially at a minimum feature size of less than 45 nm. Consequently, to achieve higher-density circuits, storage devices, or displays, it is evident that alternative routes need to be developed to circumvent both cost and manufacturing issues.
An ideal process would be compatible with existing technological processes and manufacturing techniques; these strategies, together with novel materials, could allow significant advances to be made in meeting both short-term and long-term demands for higher-density, faster devices. The self-assembly of block copolymers (BCPs), two polymer chains covalently linked together at one end, provides a robust solution to these challenges. As thin films, immiscible BCPs self-assemble into a range of highly ordered morphologies where the size scale of the features is only limited by the size of the polymer chains and are, therefore, nanoscopic.
While self-assembly alone is sufficient for a number of applications in fabricating advanced microelectronics, directed, self-orienting, self-assembly processes are also required to produce complex devices with the required density and addressability of elements to meet future demands. Both strategies require the design and synthesis of polymers that have well-defined characteristics such that the necessary fine control over the morphology, interfacial properties, and simplicity of processes can be realized. By combining tailored self-assembly processes (a “bottom-up” approach) with microfabrication processes (a “top-down” approach), the ever-present thirst of the consumer for faster, better, and cheaper devices can be met in very simple, yet robust, ways. The integration of novel chemistries with the manipulation of self-assembly will be treated in this article.