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Electron beam lithography (EBL) is a specialized technique for creating the extremely fine patterns (much smaller than can be seen by the naked eye) required by the modern electronics industry for integrated circuits. Derived from the early scanning electron microscopes, the technique in brief consists of scanning a beam of electrons across a surface covered with a resist film sensitive to those electrons, thus depositing energy in the desired pattern in the resist film. The process of forming the beam of electrons and scanning it across a surface is very similar to what happens inside the everyday television or CRT display, but EBL typically has three orders of magnitude better resolution. The main attributes of the technology are 1) it is capable of very high resolution, almost to the atomic level; 2) it is a flexible technique that can work with a variety of materials and an almost infinite number of patterns; 3) it is slow, being one or more orders of magnitude slower than optical lithography; and 4) it is expensive and complicated — electron beam lithography tools can cost many millions of dollars and require frequent service to stay properly maintained.
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