Project summary

The manufacture of integrated circuits involves the transfer of a pattern, which ultimately gives function, to a silicon wafer through a process called photolithography. The photolithographic step involves the exposure of a thin polymer film to high-energy photons which initiate a chemical change in the polymer and thereby changes its solubility during a subsequent washing step. In this way a part of the underlying material is exposed and available for etching and metal deposition. This complex process relies critically on the performance of the thin polymer film, called the photoresist, or simply the resist. The photoresists are complex polymers containing up to four different components which impart different but crucial properties to the resists. At the moment the integrated circuit manufacture industry is faced with a major challenge in understanding the structure of these polymers and how they behave when in the form of very thin films. At these dimensions the polymers have properties very different from the bulk-scale materials.  The aim of this project is to understand how complex polymers behave as thin films and how this affects the performance of the photoresists. Training will be provided in polymer chemistry, nano-characterisation and advanced lithography. This important project has potential to impact on the manufacture of the next generation of computer chips.

SEM image of block copolymer assembled into patterned thin film photoresist.


Research Group

Whittaker Group


Nanomaterials, Health, Photolithography, Thin films, Polymer physical chemistry

Project members

Lead Investigator

Professor Andrew Whittaker

Senior Group Leader
Whittaker Group

Researchers Involved