Quantum Nanostructures and
Nanofabrication Group

Prof. Karl K. Berggren and Dr. P. Donald Keathley

New Publication “Influence of tetramethylammonium hydroxide (TMAH) on niobium nitride thin films”

Functionality of superconducting thin-film devices such as superconducting nanowire single photon detectors stems from the geometric effects that take place at the nanoscale. The engineering of these technologies requires high-resolution patterning, often achieved with electron beam lithography. Common lithography processes using hydrogen silsesquioxane (HSQ) as the electron beam resist rely on tetramethylammonium hydroxide (TMAH) as both a developer and a resist adhesion promoter. Despite the strong role played by TMAH in the fabrication of superconducting devices, its potential influence on the superconducting films themselves has not yet been reported. In this work, the authors demonstrate that a 25% TMAH developer damages niobium nitride (NbN) thin films by modifying the surface chemistry and creating an etch contaminant that slows reactive ion etching in CF4. They also show how the identity of the contaminant may be revealed through characterization including measurement of the superconducting film properties and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. Although workarounds may be available, the results reveal that processes using 25% TMAH as an adhesion promoter are not preferred for NbN films and that changes to the typical HSQ fabrication procedure will need to be made in order to prevent damage of NbN nanoscale devices.

A complete description of the work may be found here.