Resolution, overlay, and field size limits for UV, X-ray, electron beam, and ion beam lithography are described. The following conclusions emerge in the discussion. 1) At 1-µm linewidth, contrast for optical projection can be higher than that for electron beam. 2) Optical cameras using mirror optics and deep UV radiation can potentially produce linewidths approaching 0.5 µm. 3) For the purpose of comparing the resolution of electron beam and optical exposure, it is useful to define the minimum linewidth as twice the linewidth at which the contrast of the exposure system has fallen to 30 percent. 4) X-ray lithography offers the highest contrast and resist aspect ratio for linewidths above about 0.1 µm but for dimensions below 0.1 µm highest aspect ratio is obtained with electron beam. 5) With electron beam exposure on a bulk sample, contrast for a 50-nm linewidth is the same as that for 1-µm linewidth, provided the resist is thin. Higher accelerating voltages make it easier to correct for proximity effects and to maintain resolution with thick resist. 6) Ultimately the range of secondary electrons limits resolution in electron beam lithography, just as the range of photoelectrons limits resolution in X-ray lithography. In both cases, minimum linewidth and spacing in dense patterns is about 20 nm. Resolution with ion beams will probably be about the same because the interaction range of the ions will be similar to the electrons. Copyright © 1981 by The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.