The physical limitations of lithographic imaging are ultimately imposed by the refractive indices of the materials involved. At oblique collection angles, the numerical aperture of an optical system is determined by nsin(θ) , where n is the lowest material refractive index (in the absence of any refractive power through curvature). For 193nm water immersion lithography, the fluid is the limiting material, with a refractive index of near 1.44, followed by the lens material (if planar) with a refractive index near 1.56, and the photoresist, with a refractive index near 1.75. A critical goal for immersion imaging improvement is to first increase the refractive indices of the weakest link, namely the fluid or the lens material. This paper will present an approach to immersion lithography that will allow for the exploration into the extreme limits of immersion lithography by eliminating the fluid altogether. By using a solid immersion lithography (SIL) approach, we have developed a method to contact the last element of an imaging system directly to the photoresist. Furthermore, by fabricating this last element as an aluminum oxide (sapphire) prism, we can increase its refractive index to a value near 1.92. The photoresist becomes the material with the lowest refractive index and imaging becomes possible down to 28nm for a resist index of 1.75 (and 25nm for a photoresist with a refractive index of 1.93). Imaging is based on two-beam Talbot interference of a phase grating mask, illuminated with highly polarized 193nm ArF radiation. Additionally, a roadmap is presented to show the possible extension of 193nm lithography to the year 2020.