In this work, the conventional via-first dual damascene (DD) patterning scheme is replaced by a cost-efficient
Multi-Level Multiple Exposure (MLME) patterning and etching approach. A two-layer positive-tone photoresist stack is
sequentially imaged using 193 nm dry lithography, to produce a DD resist structure that is subsequently transferred into
an auxiliary dual organic underlayer stack, and then further into a dielectric layer. This novel integration approach
eliminates inter-tool wafer exchange sequences as performed in a conventional litho-etch-litho-etch process flow, while
simultaneously being applicable to all back-end-of-the-line (BEOL) levels, ensuring throughput increase. The top and
bottom resist layers are chemically designed in such a way that they feature differential solubility in organic solvents
making it possible to coat the top photoresist onto the bottom resist layer without intermixing to enable a strict litholitho-
etch processing sequence. Independent registration of the via and trench structures in the bottom and top resist
layers is achieved by selective photospeed decoupling of the respective layers, so that the bottom resist is largely
insensitive at nominal resist exposure dose for the top resist. Imaging performance evaluation of the newly introduced
MLME technology includes the resist materials selection process and their required properties (solvent compatibility,
adhesion, photospeed, defectivity and correction of via dose bias due to trench exposure) as well as metrology work.
Image transfer of the patterned DD resist structure into an underlying transfer layer stack and then further into a
dielectric layer using Reactive Ion Etching (RIE) followed by electroplating, polishing and electrical testing was also
thoroughly investigated and is described in detail in an accompanying paper.