Laser-induced sub-millisecond heating reveals distinct tertiary ester cleavage reaction pathways in a photolithographic resist polymer

Byungki Jung, Pratima Satish, David N. Bunck, William R. Dichtel, Christopher K. Ober, Michael O. Thompson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Acid-catalyzed, thermally activated ester cleavage reactions are critical for lithographic patterning processes used in the semiconductor industry. The rates of these high-temperature reactions within polymer thin films are difficult to characterize because of the thermal instability of many polymers and a lack of temperature-resolved measurement techniques. Here we introduce the use of transient laser irradiation to heat a methyladamantane-protected acrylate copolymer to 600 °C in less than a millisecond. These conditions mediate the removal of the protecting groups and enable accurate kinetic measurements. At sub-millisecond exposure to high temperatures (∼600°C), the rate of the ester cleavage reaction exhibits the expected first-order dependence on acid concentration. In contrast, the reaction exhibits more complex kinetics when the polymer film is heated to lower temperatures (115°C) on a conventional hot-plate. We identify distinct methyladamantane-derived deprotection products under the high- and low-temperature conditions that are consistent with the observed rate differences. The acid-catalyzed dimerization of 1-methyleneadamantane occurs at low temperature, which reduces the acid concentration available for the ester cleavage. This dimerization reaction is minimized during transient laser-induced heating because bimolecular reactions are disfavored under these conditions. We constructed a mathematical model based on these observations that accounts for the competition for the catalyst between the dimerization and ester cleavage processes. This laser-induced, sub-millisecond heating technique provides a means to probe and model temperature and time regimes of thermally activated reactions in polymer films, and these regimes exhibit distinct and advantageous reaction pathways that will inform future advances in high-performance photolithography.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5746-5756
Number of pages11
JournalACS nano
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 24 2014


  • acid diffusion
  • chemical reaction kinetics
  • deprotection
  • laser spike annealing
  • rapid thermal processing
  • resist polymer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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