A key issue associated with advanced lithography techniques for semiconductor-device manufacturing is the reduction in the sidewall roughness of photoresist line patterns, known as line-edge roughness (LER). We have developed a technique for measuring the sidewall of the resist pattern using atomic force microscopy (AFM) that enables three-dimensional (3D), high-resolution, low-noise, and nondestructive measurements. Conventional LER measurement technology using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) causes shrinkage of the resist pattern due to electron-beam (EB) exposure, whereas our new AFM technique can in principle avoid EB-induced shrinkage. This AFM technology is capable of 3D measurements because it employs a tip-tilting mechanism that enables the sharp AFM tip to scan the vertical sidewalls, which is difficult for a conventional AFM technique. In addition, laser interferometers are equipped for the measurement of the AFM tip displacement, which yields high-resolution, high-accuracy, and low-noise results. This technology overcomes issues such as low resolution, noise, and destructive measurements that afflict conventional SEM measurements. In addition, it enables observations and quantitative analyses of the 3D sidewall roughness. For example, in the present experiment, we observed that grain shapes (several tens of nm in size) were formed randomly on the resist sidewall and that there were almost no footing shapes. By analyzing the sidewall profiles with a height resolution of 1 nm, we obtain the roughness (self-affine fractal) parameters at each height. This AFM-based resist sidewall measurement technique can, thus, provide important insights into resist patterning and related process technologies for next-generation semiconductor-device manufacturing.

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