An enormous pressure is currently put on Resolution Enhancement Techniques to meet the deadline for the development of high density memory devices. The prevailing conviction is to consider water immersion lithography as the choice for manufacturing 45nm technology node devices. Even if a huge effort to face immersion specific issues has been done (on defectivity, micro-bubbles, contamination, overlay control, hyper NA imaging, birefringence), a technology solution to image the desired features and densities must be available till now in order to anticipate all the steps involved in the process integration before the complete assessment of the immersion infrastructure.
Moreover, the forecasted solutions for 32nm and 22nm technology nodes remain uncertain, strongly depending on current and near future development of high index fluids for immersion lithography and EUV availability. These temporal lacks of technology options are forcing scanner suppliers and IC manufacturers to include also double exposure in the group of viable choices for future development.
Double patterning (double exposure and double etch) is surely a fascinating solution for overcoming the physical resolution limit of k1 = 0.25 of imaging systems. Various papers in these last two years demonstrated an increasing interest in the exploration of such kind of technique to extend as much as possible ArF dry exposure tools. Though the concept of this technique is simple and well known, there are various technical issues which must be solved before moving to a real implementation in the manufacturing phase.
In this paper we want to present the experimental results of the application of double patterning to the definition of a 45nm technology node Flash memory device, reaching a k1 ~ 0.20 using 193nm dry lithography. Flash memory design introduces imaging critical points in several levels: active, contacts, and first metallization. For each of these layers, a dedicated study of double exposure has been performed in order to develop a combined litho-etch process to pattern the requested features density. Different issues will be reported, related to process choices (hard mask, resist compatibility), overlay performances, OPC and layout decomposition. Experimental process windows of dedicated test masks with lines and spaces and contact holes are shown. A deep study on overlay performance and possible optimizations has been performed and will be reported. Finally, we will demonstrate that double exposure technique can be used to anticipate process integration of critical lithography steps for high density memory devices at 45nm technology node.