Electron beam lithography is a versatile tool capable of making almost all kinds of patterns imaginable within nanotechnology. Electron beam lithography is a maskless lithography technique initially developed in the 1950s and refined ever since to a level where the state of the art electron beam tools today can make dense sub-20 nm structures and sub-10 nm sparser structures.
Overall an electron beam lithography system consists of an electron source, a lens system, an electron beam deflection system, a motorized stage and computers and software to control all elements. Today commercial tools use field electron emission sources, such as heated W/ZrO2 for lower energy spread, enhanced brightness and higher stability.
The beam deflection system is used to scan the beam within a so called writing field, typically 100 µm x 100 µm up to 1 mm x 1 mm. The movement between writing fields is performed by the stage which is controlled with a laser interferometer to achieve the smallest possible stitching error between writing fields, in state of the art tools today the stitching error between writing fields is less than 20 nm.
NIL stamps are often patterned by electron beam lithography.