This article presents a study of particle formation during vacuum pump down and methods that can be incorporated to protect critical surfaces (like semiconductor wafers or masks) from those particles. Particle formation during pump down was reexamined with temperature measurements. Particles were intentionally produced with hard pump down for studying protection schemes. For the first step, a face-down approach for a critical surface was used to investigate the effect of protection from particle contamination. It was very effective to hold a critical surface face down for protection with the use of high gravitational settling velocity in vacuum environment. However, the face down approach did not sufficiently protect the critical surface. For the second step, a bottom protective plate was introduced below the critical surface to improve the protection efficiency. The bottom plate played a great role in protection of the critical surface with preventing particle formation near the critical surface by keeping the surrounding gas temperature high enough to avoid particle formation as well as with potential blocking of incoming particles toward the critical surface. Higher gas temperature intrinsically avoids formation of residue particles by the condensation process during pump down.

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