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Picosun and Hitachi MECRALD Process


By Ed Korczynski, Sr. Technical Editor

A new microwave electron cyclotron resonance (MECR) atomic layer deposition (ALD) process technology has been co-developed by Hitachi High-Technologies Corporation and Picosun Oy to provide commercial semiconductor IC fabs with the ability to form dielectric films at lower temperatures. Silicon oxide and silicon nitride, aluminum oxide and aluminum nitride films have been deposited in the temperature range of 150-200 degrees C in the new 300-mm single-wafer plasma-enhanced ALD (PEALD) processing chamber.

With the device features within both logic and memory chips having been scaled to atomic dimensions, ALD technology has been increasingly enabling cost-effective high volume manufacturing (HVM) of the most advanced ICs. While the deposition rate will always be an important process parameter for HVM, the quality of the material deposited is far more important in ALD. The MECR plasma source provides a means of tunable energy to alter the reactivity of ALD precursors, thereby allowing for new degrees of freedom in controlling final film properties.

The Figure shows the MECRALD chamber— Hitachi High-Tech’s ECR plasma generator is integrated with Picosun’s digitally controlled ALD system—from an online video ( describing the process sequence:

1.  first precursor gas/vapor flows from a circumferential ring near the wafer chuck,

2.  first vacuum purge,

3.  second precursor gas/vapor is ionized as it flows down through the ECR zone above the circumferential ring, and

4.  second vacuum purge to complete one ALD cycle (which may be repeated).

Cross-sectional schematic of a new Microwave Electron Cyclotron Resonance (MECR) plasma source from Hitachi High-Technologies connected to a single-wafer Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) processing chamber from Picosun. (Source: Picosun)

The development team claims that MECRALD films are superior to other PEALD films in terms of higher density, lower contamination of carbon and oxygen (in non-oxides), and also show excellent step-coverage as would be expected from a surface-driven ALD process. The relatively density of these films has been confirmed by lower wet etch rates. The single-wafer process non-uniformity on 300mm wafers is claimed at ~1% (1 sigma). The team is now exploring processes and precursors to be able to deposit additional films such as titanium nitride (TiN), tantalum nitride (TaN), and hafnium oxide (HfO). In an interview with Solid State Technology, a spokesperson from Hitachi High-Technologies explained that, “We are now at the development stage, and the final specifications mainly depend on future achievements.”

The MECR source has been used in Hitachi High-Tech’s plasma chamber for IC conductor etch for many years, and is able to generate a stable high-density plasma at very low pressure (< 0.1 Pa). MECR plasmas provide wide process windows through accurate plasma parameter management, such as plasma distribution or plasma position control. The same plasma technology is also used to control ions and radicals in the company’s dry cleaning chambers.

“I’m really impressed by the continuous development of ALD technology, after more than 40 years since the invention,” commented Dr. Tuomo Suntola, and the famous inventor and patentor of the Atomic Layer Deposition method in Finland in 1974, and member of the Picosun board of directors. “Now combining Hitachi and Picosun technologies means (there is) again a major breakthrough in advanced semiconductor manufacturing.”

MECRALD chambers can be clustered on a Picosun platform that features a Brooks robot handler. This technology is still under development, so it’s too soon to discuss manufacturing parameters such as tool cost and wafer throughput.


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