Electron beam lithography still represents the most effective way to pattern materials at the nanoscale, especially in the case of structures, which are not indefinitely repeating a simple motif. The success of e-beam lithography depends on the availability of suitable resists. There is a substantial variety of resist materials, from PMMA to calixarenes, to choose from to achieve high resolution in electron-beam lithography. However, these materials suffer from the limitation of poor sensitivity and poor contrast.
In both direct-write and projection e-beam systems the maximum beam current for a given resolution is limited by space-charge effects. In order to make the most efficient use of the available current, the resist must be as sensitive as possible. This leads, naturally, to the use of chemically amplified (CA) systems. Unfortunately, in the quest for ever smaller feature sizes and higher throughputs, even chemically amplified materials are limited: ultimately, sensitivity and resolution are not independent. Current resists already operate in the regime of < 1 electron/nm2. In this situation detailed models are the only way to understand material performance and limits.
Resist requirements, including sensitivity, etch selectivity, environmental stability, outgassing, and line-edge roughness as they pertain to, high-voltage (100 kV) direct write and projection electron-beam exposure systems are described. Experimental results obtained on CA resists in the SCALPEL® exposure system are presented and the fundamental sensitivity limits of CA and conventional materials in terms of shot-noise and resolution limits in terms of electron-beam solid interactions are discussed.