The MMA:PMMA bilayer electron beam resist system can produce nanoscale structures with clean edges via lift-off. This happens because the same process that produces patterns in PMMA will produce slightly oversized patterns in the MMA layer underneath. This undercutting of the MMA layer allow materials to be deposited into the patterned area without touching the sides of MMA and facilitates the dissolution of the MMA and PMMA during lift-off.


Determine the limitations of the MMA:PMMA bilayer system.

Design of Experiment

  1. Begin with a 3″ Silicon substrate
  2. Spin on 100 [nm] of MMA(8.5)MMA Copolymer
    1. Dispense MMA(8.5)MMA EL3.6 across entire wafer
    2. Spin at 3000 [rpm] for 60 [s]
    3. Bake on a hotplate at 180 [ºC] for 120 [s]
  3. Spin on 100 [nm] of PMMA 950K
    1. Dispense PMMA950 A4.5 across the entire wafer
    2. Spin at 3000 [rpm] for 60 [s]
    3. Bake on a hotplate at 180 [ºC] for 120 [s]
  4. Expose grating patterns using electron beam lithography
    1. Grating patterns are 100, 200, 400, and 1000 [nm] wide lines with 25% and 50% duty cycle
    2. Dose is 300 and 450 [μC/cm2]
  5. Develop by immersing in IPA:DI Water (2:1) for 1 minute
  6. Ebeam evaporate 80 [nm] of Cr
  7. Use a focused ion beam to inspect a cross-section of the pattern
    1. Measure pattern width
    2. Measure undercut width
  8. Lift-off by immersing in acetone for 5 minutes
  9. Use a focused ion beam to inspect the chrome pattern

Results and Discussion

25% Density Grating Patterns

Figure 1 shows a scanning electron image of a cross-section of a 100 [nm] wide grating with a pitch of 400 [nm]. The annotations reveal that the actual grating width is 71 [nm], the pitch is 400 [nm] and the undercut width is 115 [nm]. The grating width may actually be larger than what is measured because there is 80 nm of Cr evaporated on the sample. Nonetheless, it is evident that the MMA layer dissolves more than the PMMA during development, resulting in an undercut that is 200 nm wider than the exposed pattern.

Figure 1: Focused Ion Beam cross-section reveals undercut in the MMA layer beneath PMMA

Similar results were observed for 200 nm wide gratings with a pitch of 800 nm and 400 nm wide gratings with a pitch of 1600 nm. The table below summarizes the results. From this experiment, the least amount of undercut observed is 65 nm.

Design Width
Measured Line Width
Measured Undercut Width

50% Density Grating Patterns

At higher density, the proximity effect becomes more dominant making it more difficult to expose the PMMA layer without over exposing the MMA underlayer. Figure 2 shows a 200 nm grating pattern with a 400 nm pitch. In other words, we have 200 nm of exposed PMMA separated by only 200 nm of unexposed PMMA. This pattern was exposed at 450 [uC/cm2] so assuming an undercut of 106 nm, the MMA layer beneath the unexposed PMMA should be complete gone. Without the MMA fixing the pattern to the substrate, the unexposed PMMA is free to move resulting in a grating pattern that looks distorted. At a dose of 300 [uC/cm2] the 200 nm grating pattern looks better, but there are still some minor defects resulting from the delamination of the unexposed pattern.
Figure 2: Severe undercutting of the MMA layer causes the unexposed PMMA to delaminate resulting in a distorted grating pattern
It is clear that the proximity effect is a huge challenge for this process, limiting its use to low density patterns. There are certainly many options in an electron beam lithographer’s toolkit that can be used to push the limits of the MMA:PMMA bilayer system such as proximity effect correction, critical point drying, and process optimization. If undercut with a positive tone electron beam resist is a necessary process, then another option may be the PMGI:PMMA bilayer process. However, each process has its caveat and we have not discovered any easy bilayer undercut process for a positive tone resist. For a negative tone resist, the PMMA:HSQ bilayer process works perfectly.


The chromium pattern looks clean with no tearing defects along the edges. The pattern has a taper that is caused by the electron beam evaporation process. The width of the tapered edge measures approximately 32 nm for all three different grating size (100, 200 and 400 nm).

Figure 3: Then 80 nm thick Chromium pattern is clean with no edge defects