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Optical lithography

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===Plasma descum===
{{main|Plasma ashing}}For many applications, a [[plasma descum]] step is performed after the lithography before further processing. This step typically consists of a short, low power [[oxygen]] plasma, which etches the photoresist a small amount (on the order of 20–30{{nbsp}}nm). The purpose of the descum is to remove any residue from the surface where the photoresist was developed, and to get rid of the "tail" that often occurs at the interface between the photoresist and the substrate, and improve the vertical profile of the features. A descum is strongly recommended before any [[RIE]] etching. The oxygen plasma can be replaced with a high power [[Argon]] plasma, which can be useful for etches where surface roughness and sidewall profile are critical. Oxygen plasma treatment is also strongly recommended prior to [[wet etching]]. Photoresist is naturally [[Wikipedia:hydrophobic|hydrophobic]] and will repel water-based solutions, causing small features to not be etched. Exposure to oxygen plasma renders the surface hydrophilic and enables etching to occur.
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