Availability of defect-free reflective mask has been one of the most critical challenges to extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUVL). To mitigate the risk, significant progress has been made on defect detection, pattern shifting, and defect repair. Clearly such mitigation strategies are based on the assumption that defect counts and sizes from incoming mask blanks must be below practical levels depending on mask specifics. The leading industry consensus for early mask product development is that there should be no defects greater than 80 nm in the quality area, 132 mm x 132 mm. In addition less than 10 defects smaller than 80 nm may be mitigable. SEMATECH has been focused on EUV mask blank defect reduction using Veeco Nexus <sup>TM</sup> IBD platform, the industry standard for mask blank production, and assessing if IBD technology can be evolved to a manufacturing solution. SEMATECH has recently announced a breakthrough reduction of defects in the mask blank deposition process resulting in the production of two defect-free EUV mask blanks at 54 nm inspection sensitivity (SiO<sub>2</sub> equivalent). This paper will discuss the dramatic reduction of baseline EUV mask blank defects, review the current deposition process run and compare results with previous process runs. Likely causes of remaining defects will be discussed based on analyses as characterized by their compositions and whether defects are embedded in the multilayer stack or non-embedded.
Ion Beam Deposition (IBD) has been the primary technique used to deposit EUV mask blanks since 1995 when it was discovered it could produce multilayers with few defects. Since that time the IBD technique has been extensively studied and improved and is finally approaching usable defectivities. But in the intervening years, the defectivity of magnetron sputtering has been greatly improved. This paper evaluates the suitability of a modern magnetron tool to produce EUV mask blanks and the ability to support HVM production. In particular we show that the reflectivity and uniformity of these tools are superior to current generation IBD tools, and that the magnetron tools can produce EUV films with defect densities comparable to recent best IBD tool performance. Magnetron tools also offer many advantages in manufacturability and tool throughput; however, challenges remain, including transitioning the magnetron tools from the wafer to mask formats. While work continues on quantifying the capability of magnetron sputtering to meet the mask blank demands of the industry, for the most part the remaining challenges do not require any fundamental improvements to existing technology. Based on the recent results and the data presented in this paper there is a clear indication that magnetron deposition should be considered for the future of EUV mask blank production.