Metal oxoclusters are hybrid inorganic-organic molecular compounds with a well-defined number of metal and oxygen atoms in their cores. This type of materials is a promising platform for extreme ultraviolet (EUV) photoresists: their inorganic cores provide them with tunable EUV absorptivity and their molecular nature might favour smaller resolution and roughness while it also renders specific spectroscopic fingerprints that allow to monitor the chemical changes induced by EUV light. In this work, we compare the EUV photochemistry of metal oxoclusters based on Ti, Zr, and Hf and methacrylate ligands (Mc) and their sensitivity as resist materials for EUV lithography. Decarboxylation processes upon EUV exposure are detected in all cases with ex-situ X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and infrared spectroscopy (IR). However, the structural changes after film deposition and after exposure differed among the three compounds. Higher sensitivity was detected for the Hf-based material than for the Zr-based analogue, in line with its higher absorptivity. XPS analyses suggest that only a small fraction of the carboxylate ligands is lost at the dose-to-gel. This change in the chemical composition is accompanied by an increased structural disorder in the layer and a rather small degree of aggregation, according to grazing incidence X-ray scattering (GIXS). These results indicate that neither a drastic loss of organic shell nor a high degree of aggregation of the naked inorganic cores are required for this type of molecular thin film to reliably operate as a resist material.
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