Process windows have become narrower as nano-processing technology has advanced. The semiconductor industry, faced with this situation, has had to impose extremely severe tool controls. Above all, with the advent of 90-nm device production, demand has arisen for strict levels of control that exceed the machine specifications of ArF exposure systems. Consequently, high-accuracy focus control and focus monitoring techniques for production wafers will be necessary in order for this to be achieved for practical use. Focus monitoring techniques that measure pattern placement errors and resist features using special reticle and mark have recently been proposed. Unfortunately, these techniques have several disadvantages. They are unable to identify the direction of a focus error, and there are limits on the illumination conditions. Furthermore, they require the use of a reticle that is more expensive than normal and they suffer from a low level of measurement accuracy. To solve these problems, the authors examined methods of focus control and focus error measurement for production wafers that utilize the lens aberration of the exposure tool system. The authors call this method FMLA (focus monitoring using lens aberration).
In general, astigmatism causes a difference in the optimum focal point between the horizontal and vertical patterns in the same image plane. If a focus error occurs, regardless of the reason, a critical dimension (CD) difference arises between the sparse horizontal and vertical lines. In addition, this CD difference decreases or increases monotonously with the defocus value. That is to say, it is possible to estimate the focus errors to measure the vertical and horizontal line CD formed by exposure tool with astigmatism.
In this paper, the authors examined the FMLA technique using astigmatism. First, focus monitoring accuracy was investigated. Using normal scholar type simulation, FMLA was able to detect a 32.3-nm focus error when 10-mλ astigmatism was present. Furthermore, we verified that it was possible to experimentally detect a 20-nm focus error for gate layer of 90-nm logic devices. In tilt error evaluation, the estimated tilt error value was separated by 0.3-ppm from the input value into exposure tool parameters. Finally, when FMLA was applied to gate layer of 90-nm logic devices, inter lot distribution was decreased from 6.8-nm to 2.8-nm, and it was proved that FMLA using astigmatism was an effective method in device manufacturing.