Applied Physics Letters

Characterization and mechanism of He plasma pretreatment of nanoscale polymer masks for improved pattern transfer fidelity

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Roughening of nanoscale polymer masks during plasma etching (PE) limits feature critical dimensions in current and future lithographic technologies. Roughness formation of 193 nm photoresist (PR) is mechanistically explained by plasma-induced changes in mechanical properties introduced at the PR surface (∼2 nm) by ions and in parallel in the material bulk (∼200 nm) by ultraviolet (UV) plasma radiation. Synergistic roughening of polymer masks can be prevented by pretreating PR patterns with a high dose of He plasma UV exposure to saturate bulk material modifications. During subsequent PE, PR patterns are stabilized and exhibit improved etch resistance and reduced surface/line-edge roughness. © 2011 American Institute of Physics.