Using Electron Beams To Draw Tiny Shapes Onto Silicon

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Over the past few years we’ve seen several impressive projects where people try to manufacture integrated circuits using hobbyist tools. One of the most complex parts of this process is lithography: the step in which shapes are drawn onto a silicon wafer. There are several ways to do this, all of them rather complicated, but [Zachary Tong] over at Breaking Taps has managed to make one of them work quite well. He shares the results of his electron-beam lithography experiments in his latest video (embedded below).

In e-beam lithography, or EBL, shapes are drawn onto a wafer using an electron beam in a vacuum chamber. This is a slow process compared to optical lithography, as used in mass production, but it is reasonably simple and very flexible. [Zach] decided to use his electron microscope as an e-beam litho machine; although not designed for lithography, it has the same basic components as a real EBL machine and can act as a substitute with a bit of software tweaking.

An AFM image of Rick Astley
[Zach] also has an atomic force microscope, which he used to make these beautiful images.

The first step is to coat a wafer with a layer of e-beam resist. [Zach] used PMMA, commonly known as acrylic plastic, and applied it using spin coating after dissolving it in anisole. He then placed the wafer into the electron microscope and used it to scan an image. The image was then developed by rinsing the wafer in cold isopropyl alcohol.

[Zach] explains the whole process in detail in his video, including how he tuned all the parameters like resist thickness, beam strength, exposure time and development time, as well as the software tricks needed to persuade the microscope to function as a litho machine. In his best runs he managed to draw lines with a width of about 100 nanometers, which is seriously impressive for such a relatively simple setup.

These e-beam lithography experiments follow on from [Zach]’s earlier research using lasers. Homebrew IC expert Sam Zeloof has also used electron beams in his work. Thanks for the tip, [smellsofbikes]!

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