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A new column design for the 25‐kV vector‐scan Gaussian beam lithography system is described. A field‐emission gun, consisting of a three‐element electrostatic lens and Zr/O/W〈100〉 cathode operated in a thermal‐field mode for current stability, is combined in a demagnifying optics with a magnetic objective lens to focus a high‐current‐density (1000–3000 A/cm2) electron beam at high resolution (100–300 Å) at the wafer plane without a severe reduction in field size. Optimum beam semiangle, focus mode, and column magnification are determined. The modified system retains the original deflection coils and pattern‐generation system which allows immediate implementation of existing subfield stitching, chip registration, and proximity correction software.