Achieving mask blanks with defectivity less than 0.03 defects/cm2 at 30 nm SiO2 equivalent and above is one of the key goals for accomplishing high volume manufacturing capability for EUV lithography. Defect free blanks for lithography start from defect free substrates. Currently, defects on both LTEM and quartz substrates are dominated by pits, scratches, particles and residues left by the polishing processes used to achieve the roughness and flatness specifications of the substrates. Normally, such defects are extremely difficult to be removed and particles often leave pits as they are removed by cleaning. Standard cleaning processes relying on megasonic cavitations for particle removal are insufficient for removing such defects from substrates. It is well known that hydrofluoric acid is an etchant of fused silica (quartz) and buffered HF in different concentrations has been used in the past for cleaning quartz and silicon substrates. Ideally, an etch clean process should not increase the roughness of the substrate while cleaning. However, in the process of etching and removing the defects, the roughness of the substrates is invariably increased which is undesirable. The rate of roughness change is directly dependent on the concentration and time of exposure, which also affects the etch rate and defect removal rate.
In this paper we report that a post polishing etch clean process has been developed for ULE and quartz substrates which meet the defectivity, roughness and flatness specifications for EUV blanks. We also examine the effects of substrate roughness on blank roughness, and inspection capability of substrates and blanks at different roughness levels using a defect inspection tool capable of inspecting defects down to 35 nm SiO2 equivalent size. Defect smoothing using etch clean processes have been proposed and demonstrated in the past using an anisotropic etch mechanism. This study focuses on complete removal of defects from EUV substrates, and therefore smoothing is not an issue. Multilayer blank deposition process is known to decorate defects on substrates. We use this as a technique to identify any defects that might be left on the substrate surface after etch cleaning. In most cases, we find that the substrates have low defectivity and do not affect the EUV requirements. We demonstrate that the etch clean process can be used to increase the yield of high quality ULE substrates to meet the high volume production requirements of euv masks.