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Photolithography :

In different processing steps such as oxidation, etching, metal and polysilicon deposition and ion implantation it is required to mark the certain area on the chip by using an optical mask because of such masking the desired processing step is applied to the selected areas on the chip. The technique to do this selective masking is called as photolithography. In the photolithography, first “reticle” which is a transparent silica plate containing the pattern is generated. The reticle typically contains the patterns corresponding to a single chip or die rather than the entire wafer. When the pattern is generated for the entire wafer then transparent silica plate is named as “mask” instead of “reticle”.

The reticle or mask is usually created by a computer controlled electron beam driven by the circuit layout data using pattern generator software. The different steps involved in the photography include :

Step 1 : Oxidation layering :

In this step a thin layer of SiO2 is deposited over the complete wafer by exposing it to oxygen.

Step 2 : Photoresist coating :

In this step a light sensitive polymer is coated on the wafer. This material is soluble in organic solvent but has the property that when exposed to light the light exposed regions becomes insoluble in organic solvent this types of photoresist is called as negative photoresist. A positive photoresist has the opposite properties i.e. it originally insoluble but when exposed to light it becomes soluble in organic solvent.

Step 3 : Stepper exposure :

In this step a reticle or (a mask) which contains patterned layout is brought close proximity to the wafer. The mask is transparent in some regions and opaque in the regions which we wanted to process. The combination of mask and wafer is now exposed to ultraviolet light. If the negative photoresist is coated on the wafer then the region where the mask is transparent, the photoresist becomes insoluble.

Step 4 : Soft baking :

Now the wafers are kept in either on acidic or basic solutions to remove the non exposed areas of photoresist. Once the exposed photoresist is removed the wafer “soft baked” at a low temperature to harden the remaining photoresist.

Step 5 : Acid etching :

The material from the selected areas which are not covered with photoresist is removed by using different types of acid base and acoustic solutions. Because of the dangerous nature of these solvents, safety and environmental impact is primarily concerned in this step.

Step 6 : SRD :

This is called as Spin, Rinse and Dry step which cleans the wafer with deionised water and dries it with Nitrogen. In integrated circuits the smallest particle of dust or dirt can destroy the circuitry, in order to prevent this the processing steps are performed in ultra clean rooms where the number of particles per cubic foot of air ranges between 1 and 10 also called as
“ Class 1” or “Class 10” clean rooms. Because of such fabrication requirements the cost of integrated circuit fabrication is very high.

Step 7 : Various process steps :

Now the exposed area can be used for other processing steps such as ion implantation, plasma etching or metal deposition discussed in subsequent sections.

Step 8 : Ashing :

This step is used to remove the remaining photoresist without damaging the other wafer areas where devices are formed. As this photoresist was exposed to light this is hard and insoluble in solvent hence to remove this, high temperature plasma is used. Figure below shows the various steps involved in the photolithography process.