A surface tension gradient driven flow (a Marangoni flow) is used to remove the thin film of water remaining on the surface of an object following rinsing. The process passively introduces by natural evaporation and diffusion of minute amounts of alcohol (or other suitable material) vapor in the immediate vicinity of a continuously refreshed meniscus of deionized water or another aqueous-based, nonsurfactant rinsing agent. Used in conjunction with cleaning, developing or wet etching application, rinsing coupled with Marangoni drying provides a single-step process for 1) cleaning, developing or etching, 2) rinsing, and 3) drying objects such as flat substrates or coatings on flat substrates without necessarily using heat, forced air flow, contact wiping, centrifugation or large amounts of flammable solvents. This process is useful in one-step cleaning and drying of large flat optical substrates, one-step developing/rinsing and drying or etching/rinsing/drying of large flat patterned substrates and flat panel displays during lithographic processing, and room-temperature rinsing/drying of other large parts, sheets or continuous rolls of material.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.