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New Applied PVD system targets TiN hardmasks for 10nm, 7nm chips

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

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By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

Applied Materials today introduces the Applied Endura Cirrus HTX PVD, a physical vapor deposition system for creating titanium nitride hardmask films that could be used in fabricating 10-nanometer and 7nm chips.

“Titanium nitride is the metal hardmask of choice,” harder than copper and nearly as hard as diamond, says Sree Kesapragada, Applied’s global product manager for Metal Deposition Products.

“Patterning plays key role in defining the interconnect,” Kesapragada says. “Perfect via alignment is critical for device yield. Hardmask ensures the perfect via alignment critical for yield.”

The hardmasks created with the Endura Cirrus HTX TiN system strike the required balance between neutral stress and film density hardness, he asserts. The TiN hardmask, meant to resist the erosion of etching, helps ensure that via etches land where they are supposed to, and not too close to neighboring vias, which can creates shorts.

Metal hardmask layer manages alignment errors.

Applied has worked with customers at multiple sites in developing the new PVD system over the past two to three years, according to Kesapragada. He emphasizes that the Cirrus HTX TiN system offers “precision control over TiN crystal growth,” as the process chamber is “designed for tensile high-density TiN films.” The new PVD system enables high density, tensile films thanks to a high level of ionization during deposition made possible by a high frequency source.

High film desnity is needed to prevent erosion, and a neutral-to-tensile stress is needed for pattern fidelity. CVD/ALD films have tensile stress, but are low density. Traditionally deposited TiN films have good density, but compressive stress.

The formation of “islands” of TiN crystals is almost like chemical vapor deposition, “layer by layer,” Kesapragada says, “in a PVD chamber.”

In the process chamber, the first of its kind, titanium atoms are reactively sputtered in a nitrogen-based plasma, allowing for tunable composition, according to Applied. This chamber can be used for high-volume manufacturing of semiconductors with 7nm features, covering two process-node generations, Kesapragada says.

There is also “very established integration” with chemical mechanical planarization equipment, he adds.

Applied is the market leader in TiN PVD systems, with more than 200 systems shipped, according to Kesapragada. Those PVD systems have more than 700 process chambers, he adds.

The Endura Cirrus HTX TiN PVD system is being formally introduced this week at the IEEE’s 2015 International Interconnect Technology Conference in Grenoble, France.

Solid State Watch: April 24-30, 2015

Monday, May 4th, 2015
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Solid State Watch: April 17-23, 2015

Friday, April 24th, 2015
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Solid State Watch: February 20-26, 2015

Monday, March 2nd, 2015
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Solid State Watch: February 6-12, 2015

Friday, February 13th, 2015
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5nm Node Needs EUV for Economics

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

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By Ed Korczynski, Sr. Technical Editor

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At IEDM 2014 last month in San Francisco, Applied Materials sponsored an evening panel discussion on the theme of “How do we continue past 7nm?” Given that leading fabs are now ramping 14nm node processes, and exploring manufacturing options for the 10nm node, “past 7nm” means 5nm node processing. There are many device options possible, but cost-effective manufacturing at this scale will require Extreme Ultra-Violet (EUV) lithography to avoid the costs of quadruple-patterning.

Fig. 1: Panelists discuss future IC manufacturing and design possibilities in San Francisco on December 16, 2014. (Source: Pete Singer)

Figure 1 shows the panel being moderated by Professor Mark Rodwell of the University of California Santa Barbara, composed of the following industry experts:

  • Karim Arabi, Ph.D. – vice president, engineering, Qualcomm,
  • Michael Guillorn, Ph.D. – research staff member, IBM,
  • Witek Maszara, Ph.D. – distinguished member of technical staff, GLOBALFOUNDRIES,
  • Aaron Thean, Ph.D. – vice president, logic process technologies, imec, and
  • Satheesh Kuppurao, Ph.D. – vice president, front end products group, Applied Materials.

Arabi said that from the design perspective the overarching concern is to keep “innovating at the edge” of instantaneous and mobile processing. At the transistor level, the 10nm node process will be similar to that at the 14nm node, though perhaps with alternate channels. The 7nm node will be an inflection point with more innovation needed such as gate-all-around (GAA) nanowires in a horizontal array. By the 5nm node there’s no way to avoid tunnel FETs and III-V channels and possibly vertical nanowires, though self-heating issues could become very challenging. There’s no shortage of good ideas in the front end and lots of optimism that we’ll be able to make the transistors somehow, but the situation in the backend of on-chip metal interconnect is looking like it could become a bottleneck.

Guillorn extolled the virtues of embedded-memory to accelerate logic functions, as a great example of co-optimization at the chip level providing a real boost in performance at the system level. The infection at 7nm and beyond could lead to GAA Carbon Nano-Tube (CNT) as the minimum functional device. It’s limited to think about future devices only in terms of dimensional shrinks, since much of the performance improvement will come from new materials and new device and technology integration. In addition to concerns with interconnects, maintaining acceptable resistance in transistor contacts will be very difficult with reduced contact areas.

Maszara provided target numbers for a 5nm node technology to provide a 50% area shrink over 7nm:  gate pitch of 30nm, and interconnect level Metal 1 (M1) pitch of 20nm. To reach those targets, GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ cost models show that EUV with ~0.5 N.A. would be needed. Even if much of the lithography could use some manner of Directed Self-Assembly (DSA), EUV would still be needed for cut-masks and contacts. In terms of device performance, either finFET or nanowires could provide desired off current but the challenge then becomes how to get the on current for intended mobile applications? Alternative channels with high mobility materials could work but it remains to be seen how they will be integrated. A rough calculation of cost is the number of mask layers, and for 5nm node processing the cost/transistor could still go down if the industry has ideal EUV. Otherwise, the only affordable way to go may be stay at 7nm node specs but do transistor stacking.

Thein detailed why electrostatic scaling is a key factor. Parasitics will be extraordinary for any 5nm node devices due to the intrinsically higher number of surfaces and junctions within the same volume. Just the parasitic capacitances at 7nm are modeled as being 75% of the total capacitance of the chip. The device trend from planar to finFET to nanowires means proportionally increasing relative surface areas, which results in inherently greater sensitivity to surface-defects and interface-traps. Scaling to smaller structures may not help you if you loose most of the current and voltage in non-useful traps and defects, and that has already been seen in comparisons of III-V finFETs and nanowires. Also, 2D scaling of CMOS gates is not sustainable, and so one motivation for considering vertical transistors for logic at 5nm would be to allow for 20nm gates at 30nm pitch.

Kappurao reminded attendees that while there is still uncertainty regarding the device structures beyond 7nm, there is certainty in 4 trends for equipment processes the industry will need:

  1. everything is an interface requiring precision materials engineering,
  2. film depositions are either atomic-layer or selective films or even lattice-matched,
  3. pattern definition using dry selective-removal and directed self-assembly, and
  4. architecture in 3D means high aspect-ratio processing and non-equilibrium processing.

An example of non-equilibrium processing is single-wafer rapid-thermal-annealers (RTA) that today run for nanoseconds—providing the same or even better performance than equilibrium. Figure 2 shows that a cobalt-liner for copper lines along with a selective-cobalt cap provides a 10x improvement in electromigration compared to the previous process-of-record, which is an example of precision materials engineering solving scaling performance issues.

Fig. 2: ElectroMigration (EM) lifetimes for on-chip interconnects made with either conventional Cu or Cu lined and capped with Co, showing 10 times improvement with the latter. (Source: Applied Materials)

“We have to figure out how to control these materials,” reminded Kappurao. “At 5nm we’re talking about atomic precision, and we have to invent technologies that can control these things reliably in a manufacturable manner.” Whether it’s channel or contact or gate or interconnect, all the materials are going to change as we keep adding more functionality at smaller device sizes.

There is tremendous momentum in the industry behind density scaling, but when economic limits of 2D scaling are reached then designers will have to start working on 3D monolithic. It is likely that the industry will need even more integration of design and manufacturing, because it will be very challenging to keep the cost-per-function decreasing. After CMOS there are still many options for new devices to arrive in the form of spintronics or tunnel-FETs or quantum-dots.

However, Arabi reminded attendees as to why the industry has stayed with CMOS digital synchronous technology leading to design tools and a manufacturing roadmap in an ecosystem. “The industry hit a jackpot with CMOS digital. Let’s face it, we have not even been able to do asynchronous logic…even though people tried it for many years. My prediction is we’ll go as far as we can until we hit atomic limits.”

Applied Materials Introduces New Hardmask Process, Saphira

Monday, November 24th, 2014

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A new hardmask material and process was introduced this month by Applied Materials. Designed for advanced logic and memories, including DRAM and vertical NAND, the hardmask is transparent, which simplifies processing. It also exhibits very high selectivity, low stress and good mechanical strength. It’s also ashable, so that it can be removed after etching is completed. Called Saphira, the process was developed in conjunction with Samsung and other customers. An Applied Materials-developed process for stripping the hardmask was licensed to Korea-based PSK.

Hardmasks are used for etching deep, high aspect ratio (HAR) features that conventional photoresists cannot withstand. Applied Materials first introduced an amorphous carbon hardmask in 2006, and now has a family of specialized films. The Advanced Patterning Films (APF) family now includes APFe, which enables deposition of thicker layers than APF (e.g., in capacitor formation and metal contacts for memory devices), and APFx, design to address patterning of metal lines and contacts at 5xnm and beyond.

The new Saphira APF process – which runs on the Applied Materials Producer XP Precision CVD chamber and works with PSK’s OMNIS Asher systems — introduces new film properties that include greater selectivity and transparency. The Saphira APF deposition and resolve major issues to improve patterning of more complex device structures at advanced technology nodes. “It’s a materials solutions,” said Terry Lee, vice president of strategy and marketing for the dielectrics systems and modules group at Applied Materials. “It’s delivered with the patterning film itself, Saphira, as well as the combination of technologies and processes, whether it’s in the CVD chamber or etch chamber, reducing process steps and simplifying process complexity.

Applied Materials isn’t saying exactly what the Saphira hardmask is composed of, but a recent patent filing describes it as boron-rich amorphous carbon layer. The patent notes that, compared to carbonaceous masking layers, boron-doped carbonaceous layers, which include between 1 wt. % and 40 wt. % boron provide even greater etch resistance.

Lee said the Saphira film “In general behaves very much like a ceramic. But unlike most ceramics, it’s ashable. It’s structurally hard like a ceramic, but it’s ashable like our standard carbon hard mask,” he said.

In general, the selectivity of Saphira is twice the conventional masking materials on the open market, Lee said.

The new process reduces process complexity and cost in a couple of different ways. Because it’s transparent, no extra step is needed to open the mask to find the alignment mark. And because the film has high selectivity, fewer masking steps are required. That all reduces the process complexity. Lee said that with conventional masks, in order to mask these high aspect ratio features, a thicker mask material is often needed. “When you have a thicker mask and you need to etch fine features, what you wind up with is a very narrow mask. In order to prevent the mask itself from collapsing or titling, you need very strong mechanical strength. With Saphira, we have that high mechanical strength and it resists the deformation,” he said.

Saphira can also reduce the need for multiple hardmasks. “Instead of having the hardmask, oxide and poly (see figure), it drops down to a one mask that’s thinner because the selectivity is higher,” Lee explained. “What we’re seeing is that we can reduce around 20 steps. When you reduce steps, you reduce cost. What we’re seeing based on our calculations is something like 35% reduction in cost of this one module. Across multiple modules, that adds up to a lot of money,” he added.

Applied Materials Q4 Report

Friday, November 14th, 2014

By Jeff Dorsch, contributing editor

Applied Materials reported in a fourth quarter earnings call  that its long-pending merger with Tokyo Electron Ltd. may not close until the first quarter of 2015.

Gary Dickerson, Applied’s president and CEO, told analysts that the combination with TEL has just received unconditional approval from Germany’s competition authority. Without disclosing details, he added that the regulatory process is potentially pushing closing of the transaction into the new year.

Applied and TEL previously said that they expected to complete the mega-merger during the second half of calendar 2014. Shareholders of both companies have approved the transaction, leaving the process in the hands of antitrust regulators in several countries.

Last July, the two companies announced that the combined company will be called Eteris B.V.

Applied also reported today the financial results of its fiscal fourth quarter and fiscal year ended October 26. In Q4, Applied posted net income of $290 million on revenue of $2.26 billion, compared with the year-ago figures of $183 million in net income and revenue of $1.99 billion.

For the full year, Applied posted net income of $1.1 billion on revenue of $9.07 billion, compared with fiscal 2013’s net income of $256 million on revenue of $7.51 billion.

Applied had orders of $2.26 billion in the fourth quarter and of $9.65 billion in the fiscal year.

For its fiscal first quarter, the company is forecasting its net sales will be flat to up 5 percent from the fiscal fourth quarter.

Blog review October 27, 2014

Monday, October 27th, 2014

Does your design’s interconnect have high enough wire width to withstand ESD? Frank Feng of Mentor Graphics writes in his blog that although applying DRC to check for ESD protection has been in use for a while, designers still struggle to perform this check, because a pure DRC approach can’t identify the direction of an electrical current flow, which means the check can’t directly differentiate the width or length of a wire polygon against a current flow.

Phil Garrou blogs that most of us know of Nanium as a contract assembly house in Portugal who licensed the Infineon eWLB fan out technology and is supplying such packages on 300mm wafers. NANIUM also has extensive volume manufacturing experience in WB multi-chip memory packages, combining Wafer-level RDL techniques (redistribution) with multiple die stacking in a package.

Gabe Moretti says it is always a pleasure to talk to Dr. Lucio Lanza and I took the opportunity of being in Silicon Valley to interview Lucio since he has just been awarded the 2014 Phil Kaufman award. Dr. Lanza poses this challenge: “The capability of EDA tools will grow in relation to design complexity so that cost of design will remain constant relative to the number of transistors on a die.”

Are we at an inflection point with silicon scaling and homogeneous ICs? Bill Martin, President and VP of Engineering, E-System Design thinks so. I lays out the case for considering Moore’s Law 2.0 where 3D integration becomes the key to continued scaling.

Congratulations to Applied Materials Executive Chairman Mike Splinter on receiving the Silicon Valley Education Foundation’s (SVEF) Pioneer Business Leader Award for driving change in business and education philanthropy by using his passion and influence to make a positive impact on people’s lives.

At the recent FD-SOI Forum in Shanghai, the IoT (Internet of Things) was the #1 topic in all the presentations. As Adele Hars reports, speakers included experts from Synopsys, ST, GF, Soitec, IBS, Synapse Design, VeriSilicon, Wave Semi and IBM.

Blog review September 22, 2014

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Siobhan Kenney of Applied Materials reports that The Tech Museum of Innovation announced the ten recipients of the Tech Awards. Presented by Applied Materials, this is a global program honoring innovators who use technology to benefit humanity. These incredible Laureates are addressing some of the world’s most critical problems with creativity – in naming their organizations and in designing solutions to improve the way people live.

Jean-Pierre Aubert, RF Marketing Manager, STMicroelectronics says RF-SOI is good for more than integrating RF switches.  Other key functions typically found inside RF Front-End Modules (FEM) like power amplifiers (PA), RF Energy Management, low-noise amplifiers (LNA), and passives also benefit from integration.

Phil Garrou blogs Samsung finally announced that it has started mass producing 64 GB DDR4, dual Inline memory modules (RDIMMs) that use 3D TSV technology. The new memory modules are designed for use with enterprise servers and cloud base solutions as well as with data center solutions [link]. The release is timed to match the transition from DDR3 to DDR4 throughout the server market.

Stephen Whalley, Chief Strategy Officer, MEMS Industry Group, blogs about the inaugural MIG Conference Shanghai, September 11-12th, with their local partners, the Shanghai Industrial Technology Research Institute (SITRI) and the Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and Information Technology (SIMIT).  The theme was the Internet of Things and how the MEMS and Sensors supply chain needs to evolve to address the explosive growth in China.

SEMI praised the bipartisan effort in the United States House of Representatives to pass H.R. 2996, the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act.  SEMI further urged the Senate to move quickly on the legislation that would create public private partnerships to establish institutes for manufacturing innovation.

Jeff Wilson, Mentor Graphics, writes that in integrated circuit (IC) design, we’re currently seeing the makings of a perfect storm when it comes to the growing complexity of fill. The driving factors contributing to the growth of this storm are the shrinking feature sizes and spacing requirements between fill shapes, new manufacturing processes that use fill to meet uniformity requirements, and larger design sizes that require more fill.

Zvi Or-Bach, president and CEO of MonolithIC 3D, blogs that at the upcoming 2014 IEEE S3S conference (October 6-9), MonolithIC 3D will unveil a breakthrough flow that is game-changing for 3D IC. For the first time ever monolithic 3D (“M3DI”) could be built using the existing fab and the existing transistor flow.

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