For 90nm node generation, 65nm, and beyond, dark field mask types such as contact-hole, via, and trench patterns that all
are very challenging to print with satisfactory process windows for day-to-day lithography manufacturing. Resolution enhancement technology (RET) masks together with ArF high numerical aperture (NA) scanners have been recognized as the inevitable choice of method for 65nm node manufacturing. Among RET mask types, the alternating phase shifting mask (AltPSM) is one of the well-known strong enhancement techniques. However, AltPSM can have a very strong optical proximity effect that comes with the use of small on-axis illumination sigma setting. For very dense contact features, it may be possible for AltPSM to overcome the phase conflict by limiting the mask design rules. But it is not feasible to resolve the inherent phase conflict for the semi-dense, semi-isolated and isolated contact areas. Hence the adoption of this strong enhancement technique for dark filed mask types in today’s IC manufacturing has been very limited. In this paper, we report a novel yet a very powerful design method to achieve contact and via masks printing for 90nm, 65nm, and beyond. We
name our new mask design as: Novel Improved Contact-hole pattern Exposure PSM (NICE PSM) with off-axis illumination, such as QUASAR. This RET masks design can enhance the process window of isolated, semi-isolated contact hole and via hole patterns. The main concepts of NICE PSM with QUASAR off-axis illumination are analogous to the
Super-FLEX pupil filter technology.