Photolithography for Device Fabrication


Photolithography is a technique used in semiconductor device fabrication. A light sensitive layer is added to a semiconductor wafer. Light is applied to the parts of the light-sensitive layer to remove the layer where needed. After this is done, etching can be performed exclusively to the parts of the wafer without a layer of the photo-sensitive layer.


The light-sensitive layer added to the wafer is called the photoresist. To apply photoresist to a wafer, first clean the wafer. The photoresist should cover most of the wafer. This should be done while the wafer is sitting in the spinner. The spinner rotates the wafer so that the photoresist has an even coating. Then the spun wafer is placed on a heating plate. The RPM and temperature of the hot plate are important. The photoresist data sheet can indicate the required spin rate and temperature.

Photoresist Applied to Wafer

When the photoresist layer is uneven, an interference pattern can be seen on the wafer, as shown below. The interference pattern shown is less than ideal. It is normal however that there will be more photoresist build-up at the edges of the wafer. The excess photoresist at the edges of the wafer can be removed using acetone and a q-tips or swabs.

Wafer with Interference Pattern after applying photoresist

There is also the question of whether to cut the wafer before applying photoresist or afterwards. The advantage of cutting the wafer afterwards is that the built up layer of photoresist at the edges will not be used, since the cut wafer will be taken from the middle. A disadvantage of cutting the wafer afterwards is that cutting the wafer can cause damage to the photoresist layer. Also, the issue of built up photoresist at the edges of the cut wafer will remain. If the cut wafer is not round, there will be more build-up at corners of the cut wafer. If using a silicon wafer, cutting a clean square will be more difficult than when using a III-V semiconductor. Generally, one can create a square or rectangle by making a notch in the side of the wafer. The lattice of the material will cause a break to be a straight line.

Mask Aligner

The mask is what is used to select which parts of the photoresist layer will be removed and which will stay. Masks are ordered from a company such as Photronics with a .gds file for the die. The mask and the cut wafer are placed in a mask aligner. Here, a vacuum press is used. UV light is directed at the wafer from above the mask aligner.


The UV light from the mask aligner breaks the bond of the photoresist where it was applied. Now the broken-bond photoresist needs to be removed using a developer solution. The amount of time that the wafer is rinsed in the developer solution is critical. Too much time can cause the photoresist to be removed further than needed. This is especially important for small features, such as a waveguide.

Wafer soaked in CD-26 Developer solution

Next, we can view the wafer using a microscope. The combination of the thickness of the photoresist, how even the photoresist layer is, the type of photoresist, how fast it was spun, how hot it was baked on the hot plate, the mask, the developer solution, how long it was soaked in the developer solution and how much care was given to the wafer during the process, including the presence of dust will all contribute to the overall result of the wafer. Below, curved waveguides are shown on the microscope. These are layers of photoresist. For a higher magnification, an electron microscope can be used.

Curved Waveguides – Photolithography
Photolithography Playlist

Semiconductor Growth Technology: Molecular Beam Epitaxy and MOCVD

The development of advanced semiconductor technologies presents one important challenge: fabrication. Two methods of fabrication that are being used to in bandgap engineering are Molecular Beam Epitaxy (MBE) and Metal organic chemical vapour deposition (MOCVD).

Molecular Beam Epitaxy uses high-intensity vacuums to fabricate compound semiconductor materials and compounds. Atoms or molecules containing the desired atoms are directed to a heated substrate. Molecular Beam Epitaxy is highly sensitive. The vacuums used make use of diffusion pumps or cryo-pumps; diffusion pumps for gas source MBE and cryo-pumps for solid source MBE. Effusion cells are found in MBE and allow the flow of molecules through small holes without collusion. The RHEED source in MBE stands for Reflection Hish Energy Electron Diffraction and allows for information regarding the epitaxial growth structure such as surface smoothness and growth rate to be registered by reflecting high energy electrons. The growth chamber, heated to 200 degrees Celsius, while the substrate temperatures are kept in the range of 400-700 degrees Celsius.

MBE is not suitable for large scale production due to the slow growth rate and higher cost of production. However, it is highly accurate, making it highly desired for research and highly complex structures.



MOCVD is a more popular method for growing layers to a semiconductor wafer. MOCVD is primarily chemical, where elements are deposited as complex chemical compounds containing the desired chemical elements and the remains are evaporated. The MOCVD does not use a high-intensity vacuum. This process (MOCVD) can be used for a large number of optoelectronic devices with specific properties, including quantum wells. High quality semiconductor layers in the micrometer level are developed using this process. MOCVD produces a number of toxic elements including AsH3 and PH3.

MOCVD is recommended for simpler devices and for mass production.