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XPoint NVM Array Process Engineering

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

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By Ed Korczynski, Sr. Technical Editor

Now that TECHINSIGHTS has published a teardown of a 3D XPoint array, we have seen cross-section transmission electron micrographs (TEM) of the device. From first principles of process engineering, we can make educated guesses as to the process flows and challenges in creating this type of non-volatile memory (NVM) integrated circuit (IC). Evolution of device technology over more than fifteen years has resulted in cross-point arrays connecting precise stacks of chalcogenide materials. Intel with “Optane” and Micron with “QuantX” branded ICs can now claim success in commercializing what has always looked good in R&D but was notoriously difficult to make in high-volume manufacturing (HVM).

Figure 1 shows the TEM cross-section, parallel to the wordline direction, of a XPoint memory cell array taken from an Intel Optane product. There are two levels of cross-point cell-stacks, connected in the middle by bitlines (orthogonal to the wordlines). The upper- and lower-wordlines have been analyzed as tungsten (W) metal with tungsten-nitride (WN) barriers. The memory cell material is a variant on a germanium-antimony-teluride (GeSbTe or “GST”) chalcogenide glass, while the selector material is made with arsenic-silicon-germanium-selenide.

Fig. 1: Cross-section TEM of Intel XPoint NVM array in the wordline direction, showing two levels of memory cell stacks separated by bitline arrays. (Source: greyscale image by TechInsights, color commentary by Ed Korczynski)

Details about the device architecture and memory circuitry are included in the Solid State Technology online blog post by TechInsights’ senior technical fellow Dr. Jeongdong Choe, “Comparing XPoint memory architecture with NAND and DRAM products”. In his presentation at the 2017 Flash Memory Summit, Choe disclosed that the composition of the memory material is Ge0.12Sb0.29Te0.54:Si0.05 and the selector material is As0.29Si0.17Ge0.10Se0.44 while there have been no public mentions yet of what materials are used as buffers to electrodes.

As explained in the Ed’s Threads blog post on June 22nd of this year under the title “PCM + ReRAM = OUM as XPoint,” there has been confusion regarding used of Phase-Change Memory (PCM) material in a device that has a completely different architecture, different switching mechanism, and different performance than what are now known as standard PCM ICs. In standard PCM chips, high current-flow through a bit cell heats up a small mass of material until it changes phase (from crystalline to amorphous or vice-versa). In XPoint arrays, a small current-flow through a bit cell causes ions and atoms to re-arrange following voltage potentials until it changes resistivity, while it is not yet public knowledge how much change happens in material phase. Intel has said that the resistance change is not due to conductive “filament” formation in the GeSbTe:Si but due to some change in the “bulk” of the material.

Processing Speculations

From a HVM perspective, all cross-bar memory architectures share similar constraints and opportunities to design for relatively low-cost and high-yield:

1)     Use PVD blanket layers of complex material stacks as memory and selector and buffers,

2)     Use lithography to mask memory cells in a regular two-dimensional array,

3)     Use ion-beam or chemically-neutral plasma to etch pillars of complex material stacks,

4)     Use ALD/CVD and spin-on-dielectrics to gap-fill electrical isolation around pillars, and

5)     Use dielectric CMP to prepare for metal deposition.

Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) or “sputtering” processing is based on sublimating a solid material “target” inside a vacuum chamber, which provides a relatively fast and inexpensive way to coat surfaces. Thickness uniformity is typically excellent wafer-to-wafer, while within-wafer uniformity is controlled by process chamber and target geometries. The major concern with PVD using multi-component targets—such as the four element GeSbTe:Si—is that different elements sublimate at different rates such that targets “age” and experience slight predictable composition changes over time. PVD target aging can be compensated for by cleverly varying the ratio of the different elements through the thickness of the target.

When integrating PCM materials into NVM devices, the ability to use a blanket 2D PVD deposition is an inherent advantage over ALD into nano-scale 3D features:  faster, cheaper, and potentially more repeatable if target aging can be managed. Patterning of the memory cell stack requires excellent control over ion directionality to prevent sidewall erosion within the material stack. As can be seen in Figure 1, the sidewalls of the GST:Si are slightly recessed from the thin dark layers directly above and below, indicating a well-controlled process with relatively higher removal rate during etching/milling.

Dielectric gap-fill into what appears to be ~10:1 aspect-ratio features is certainly one of the integration challenges of this process flow. The cross-section shows at least one conformal barrier layer is used in the dielectric isolation between array elements and between bitlines. Dielectric ALD is likely used for barrier formation, while spin-on dielectric (SOD) technology likely provides the gap-filling capability. If the metal interconnects for the CMOS circuitry below the array are built using copper, then a 400°C upper limit on process temperatures would be required for all array fabrication.

Future R&D

Milind Weling, expert in materials/device innovation and senior vice president of programs and operations for Intermolecular, presented at the 2017 Flash Memory Summit on the company’s ability to accelerate the pace of R&D experimentation for the complex materials stacks needed in XPoint memory arrays. In an exclusive interview with SemiMD, Weling discussed the inherent challenges of finding the ideal material within a multi-element compositional space.

“We’ve been working on selectors, and a single-element material is almost useless. What you need is at least a binary, maybe a quaternary, and some people experiment with targets composed of up to seven elements! Once we find a composition that is interesting in our R&D tool, our customers create large targets for their HVM tools.” Figure 2 shows a wafer with 28 isolated circular regions within which different PVD compositions can be independent controlled in a custom R&D tool made by Intermolecular. This tool allows a complete design-of-experiments within a ternary compositional space to be run on a single 300mm-diameter silicon wafer.

Fig. 2: Site-isolated circular regions on a 300-mm silicon wafer A) can each have a different composition within B) a ternary phase diagram when deposited in a special PVD R&D tool. Chalcogenide alloys explored as memory and selector materials in cross-bar NVM arrays may have more than three elements. (Source: Intermolecular)

The materials stack is necessarily complex to be able to form chalcogenide-based NVM cells, and even more complex when buffers are added to allow for integration with CMOS-compatible materials. “Each memory cell is two electrodes sandwiching a GST-type of material, and the selector is two electrodes with one ‘magic’ layer,” explained Weling. “Except for the novel ‘magic’ selector, most of the other materials used in the stack have precedent as unit-process steps in HVM of DRAM or NAND. The difficulty is in tuning the compositions of all layers simultaneously.”

—E.K.

[DISCLOSURE:  Ed Korczynski has no ongoing business relationship with nor owns any equity in Intermolecular.]

EUVL Materials Readiness for HVM

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

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By Ed Korczynski, Sr. Technology Editor

Extreme-Ultra-Violet Lithography (EUVL)—based on ~13.5nm wavelength EM waves bouncing off mirrors in a vacuum—will finally be used in commercial IC fabrication by Intel, Samsung, and TSMC starting in 2018. In a recent quarterly earning calls ASML reported a backlog of orders for 21 EUVL tools. At the 2017 SPIE Advanced Lithography conference, presentations detailed how the source and mask and resist all are near targets for next year, while the mask pellicle still needs work. Actinic metrology for mask inspection still remains a known expensive issue to solve.

Figure 1 shows minimal pitch line/space grids and contact-hole arrays patterned with EUVL at global R&D hub IMEC in Belgium, as presented at the recent 2017 IMEC Technology Forum. While there is no way with photolithography to escape the trade-offs of the Resolution/Line-Width-Roughness/Sensitivity (RLS) triangle, patterning at the leading edge of possible pitches requires application-specific etch integration. The bottom row of SEMs in this figure all show dramatic improvements in LWR through atomic-scale etch and deposition treatments to patterned sidewalls.

Fig.1: SEM plan-view images of minimum pitch Resolution and Line-Width-Roughness and Sensitivity (RLS) for both Chemically-Amplified Resist (CAR) and Non-Chemically-Amplified Resist (NCAR, meaning metal-oxide solution from Inpria) formulations, showing that excessive LWR can be smoothed by various post-lithography deposition/etch treatments. (Source: IMEC)

ASML has recently claimed that as an indication of continued maturity, ASML’s NXE:33×0 steppers have now collectively surpassed one million processed wafers to date, and only correctly exposed wafers were included in the count. During the company’s 1Q17 earnings call, it was reported that three additional orders for NXE:3400B steppers were received in Q1 adding  to a total of 21 in backlog, worth nearly US$2.5B.

At $117M each NXE:3400B, assuming 10 years useful life it costs $32,000 each day and assuming 18 productive hours/day and 80 wafers/hour then it costs $22 per wafer-pass just for tool depreciation. In comparison, a $40M argon-fluoride immersion (ArFi) stepper over ten years with 21 available hours/day and 240 wafers/hour costs $2.2 per wafer-pass for depreciation. EUVL will always be an expensive high-value-add technology, even though a single EUVL exposure can replace 4-5 ArFi exposures.

Fabs that delay use of EUVL at the leading edge of device scaling will instead have to buy and facilitize many more ArFi tools, demanding more fab space and more optical lithography gases. SemiMD spoke with Paul Stockman, Linde Electronics’ Head of Market Development, about the global supply of specialty neon and xenon gas blends:  “Xenon is only a ppm level component of the neon-blend for Kr and Ar lasers, so there should be no concerns with Xenon supply for the industry. In our modeling we’ve realized the impact of multi-patterning on gas demand, and we’ve assumed that the industry would need multi-patterning in our forecasts.” said Stockman.

“From the Linde perspective, we manage supply carefully to meet anticipated customer demand,” reminded Stockman. “We recently added 40 million liters of neon capacity in the US, and continue to add significant supply with partners so that we can serve our customers regardless of the EUV scenario.” (Editor’s note: reported by SemiMD here.)

At SPIE Advanced Lithography 2017, SemiMD discussed multi-patterning process flows with Uday Mitra and Regina Freed of Applied Materials. “We need a lot of materials engineering now,” explained Freed. “We need new gap-fills and hard-masks, and we may need new materials for selective deposition. Regarding the etch, we need extreme selectivity with no damage, and ability to get into the smallest features to take out just one atomic layer at a time.”

Reminding us that IC fabs must be risk-averse when considering technology options, Mitra (formerly with Intel) commented, “You don’t do a technology change and a wafer size change at the same time. That’s how you risk manage, and you can imagine with something like EUVL that customers will first use it for limited patterning and check it out.”

Figure 2 lists the major issues in pattern-transfer using plasma etch tools, along with the process variables that must be controlled to ensure proper pattern fidelity. Applied Materials’ Sym3 etch chamber features hardware that provides pulsed energy at dual frequencies along with low residence time of reactant byproducts to allow for precise tuning of process parameters no matter what chemistry is needed.

Fig.2: Patterning issues and associated etch process variables which can be used for control thereof. (Source: Applied Materials)

Andrew Grenville, CEO of resist supplier Inpria, in an exclusive interview with SemiMD, commented on the infrastructure readiness for EUVL volume production. “We are building up our pilot line facility in Corvallis, Oregon. The timing for that is next year, and we are putting in place plans to continue to scale up the new materials at the same times as the quality control systems such as functional QC.” The end-users ask for quality control checks of more parameters, putting a burden on suppliers to invest in more metrology tools and even develop new measurement techniques. Inpria’s resist is based on SnOx nanoparticles, which provide for excellent etch resistance even with layers as thin as 20nm, but required the development of a new technique to measure ppb levels of trace metals in the presence of high tin signals.

“We believe that there is continued opportunity for improvement in the overall patterning performance based on the ancillaries, particularly in simplifying the under-layers. One of the core principles of our material is that we’re putting the ‘resist’ back in the resist,” enthused Grenville. “We can show the etch contrast of our material can really improve the Line-Width Roughness of the patterns because of what you can do in etch, and it’s not merely smoothing the resist. We can substantially improve the outcome by engineering the stack and the etch recipe using completely different chemistry than could be used with chemically-amplified resist.”

The 2017 EUVL Workshop (2017 International Workshop on EUV Lithography) will be held June 12-15 at The Center for X-ray Optics (CXRO) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, CA. This workshop, now in its tenth year, is focused on the fundamental science of EUV Lithography (EUVL). Travel and hotel information as well as on-line registration is available at https://euvlitho.com/.

[DISCLOSURE:  Ed Korczynski is also Sr. Analyst for TECHCET responsible for the Critical Materials Report (CMR) on Photoresists, Extensions & Ancillaries.]

—E.K.

Edge Placement Error Control in Multi-Patterning

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

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By Ed Korczynski, Sr. Technical Editor

SPIE Advanced Lithography remains the technical conference where the leading edge of minimum resolution patterning is explored, even though photolithography is now only part of the story. Leading OEMs continue to impress the industry with more productive ArFi steppers, but the photoresist suppliers and the purveyors of vacuum deposition and etch tools now provide most of the new value-add. Tri-layer-resist (TLR) stacks, specialty hard-masks and anti-reflective coatings (ARC), and complex thin-film depositions and etches all combine to create application-specific lithography solutions tuned to each critical mask.

Multi-patterning using complementary lithography—using argon-fluoride immersion (ArFi) steppers to pattern 1D line arrays plus extreme ultra-violet (EUV) tools to do line cuts—is under development at all leading edge fabs today. Figure 1 shows that edge placement error (EPE) in lines, cut layers, and vias/contacts between two orthogonal patterned layers can result in shorts and opens. Consequently, EPE control is critical for yield within any multi-patterning process flow, including litho-etch-litho-etch (LELE), self-aligned double-patterning (SADP) and self-aligned quadruple-patterning (SAQP).

Fig.1: Plan view schematic of 10nm half-pitch vertical lines overlaid with lower horizontal lines, showing the potential for edge-placement error (EPE). (Source: Y. Borodovsky, SPIE)

Happening the day before the official start of SPIE-AL, Nikon’s LithoVision event featured a talk by Intel Fellow and director of lithography hardware solutions Mark Phillips on the big picture of how the industry may continue to pattern smaller IC device features. Regarding the timing of Intel’s planned use of EUV litho technology, Phillips re-iterated that, “It’s highly desirable for the 7nm node, but we’ll only use it when it’s ready. However, EUVL will remain expensive even at full productivity, so 193i and multi-patterning will continue to be used. In particular we’ll need continued improvement in the 193i tools to meet overlay.”

Yuichi Shibazaki— Nikon Fellow and the main architect of the current generation of Nikon steppers—explained that the current generation of 193i steppers, featuring throughputs of >200 wafers per hour, have already been optimized to the point of diminishing returns. “In order to improve a small amount of performance it requires a lot of expense. So just improving tool performance may not decrease chip costs.” Nikon’s latest productivity offering is a converted alignment station as a stand-alone tool, intended to measure every product wafer before lithography to allow for feed-forward tuning of any stepper; cost and cost-of-ownership may be disclosed after the first beta-site tool reaches a customer by the end of this year.

“The 193 immersion technology continues to make steady progress, but there are not as many new game-changing developments,” confided Michael Lercel, Director of Strategic Marketing for ASML in an exclusive interview with SemiMD. “A major theme of several SPIE papers is on EPE, which traditionally we looked at as dependent upon CD and overlay. Now we’re looking at EPE in patterning more holistically, with need to control the complexity with different error-variables. The more information we can get the more we can control.”

At LithoVision this year, John Sturtevant—SPIE Fellow, and director of RET product development in the Design to Silicon Division at Mentor Graphics—discussed the challenges of controlling variability in multi-layer patterning. “A key challenge is predicting and then mitigating total EPE control,” reminded Sturtevant. “We’ve always paid attention to it, but the budgets that are available today are smaller than ever. Edge-placement is very important ” At the leading edge, there are multiple steps within the basic litho flow that induce proximity/local-neighbor effects which must be accounted for in EDA:  mask making, photoresist exposure, post-exposure bake (PEB), pattern development, and CD-SEM inspection (wherein there is non-zero resist shrinkage).

Due to the inherent physics of EUV lithography, as well as the atomic-scale non-uniformities in the reflective mirrors focusing onto the wafer, EUV exposure tools show significant variation in exposure uniformities. “For any given slit position there can be significant differences between tools. In practice we have used a single model of OPC for all slit locations in all scanners in the fab, and that paradigm may have to change,” said Sturtevant. “It’s possible that because the variation across the scanner is as much as the variation across the slit, it could mean we’ll need scanner-specific cross-slit computational lithography.” More than 3nm variation has been seen across 4 EUVL steppers, and the possible need for tool-specific optical proximity correction (OPC) and source-mask optimization (SMO) would be horrible for managing masks in HVM.

Thin Films Extend Patterning Resolution

Applied Materials has led the industry in thin-film depositions and etches for decades, and the company’s production proven processing platforms are being used more and more to extend the resolution of lithography. For SADP and SAQP MP, there are tunable unit-processes established for sidewall-spacer depositions, and chemical downstream etching chambers for mandrel pull with extreme material selectivity. CVD of dielectric and metallic hard-masks when combined with highly anisotropic plasma etching allows for device-specific and mask-specific pattern transfers that can reduce the line width/edge roughness (LWR/LER) originally present in the photoresist. Figure 2 from the SPIE-AL presentation “Impact of Materials Engineering on Edge Placement Error” by Regina Freed, Ying Zhang, and Uday Mitra of Applied Materials, shows LER reduction from 3.4 to 1.3 nm is possible after etch. The company’s Sym3 chamber features very high gas conductance to prevent etch byproducts from dissociation and re-deposition on resist sidewalls.

Fig.2: 3D schematics (top) and plan view SEM images (bottom) showing that control of plasma parameters can tune the byproducts of etch processes to significantly reduce the line-width roughness (LWR) of minimally scaled lines. (Source: Applied Materials)

TEL’s new SAQP spacer-on-spacer process builds on the work shown last year, using oxide as first spacer and TiO2 as second spacer. Now TEL is exploring silicon as the mandrel, then silicon-nitride as the first spacer, and titanium-oxide as second spacer. This new flow can be tuned so that all-dry etch in a single plasma etch chamber can be used for the final mandrel pull and pattern transfer steps.

Coventor’s 3D modeling software allows companies to do process integration experiments in virtual space, allowing for estimation of yield-losses in pattern transfer due to variations in side-wall profiles and LER. A simulation of 9 SRAM cells with 54 transistors shows that photoresist sidewall taper angle determines both the size and the variability of the final fins. The final capacitance of low-k dielectric in dual-damascene copper metal interconnects can be simulated as a function of the initial photoresist profile in a SAQP flow.

—E.K.

Vital Control in Fab Materials Supply-Chains – Part 2

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

By Ed Korczynski, Sr. Technical Editor

As detailed in Part 1 of this article published last month by SemiMD, the inaugural Critical Materials Council (CMC) Conference happened May 5-6 in Hillsboro, Oregon. Held just after the yearly private CMC meeting, the public CMC Conference provides a forum for the pre-competitive exchange of information to control the supply-chain of critical materials needed to run high-volume manufacturing (HVM) in IC fabs. The next CMC Conference will happen May 11-12 in Dallas, Texas.

At the end of the 2016 conference, a panel discussion moderated by Ed Korczynski was recorded and transcribed. The following is Part 2 of the conversation between the following industry experts:

  • Jean-Marc Girard, CTO and Director of R&D, Air Liquide Advanced Materials,
  • Jeff Hemphill, Staff Materials R&D Engineer, Intel Corporation,
  • Jonas Sundqvist, Sr. Scientist, Fraunhofer IKTS; and co-chair of ALD Conference, and
  • John Smythe, Distinguished Member of Technical Staff, Micron Technology.

FIGURE 1: 2016 CMC Conference expert panelists (from left to right) John Smyth, Jonas Sundqvist, Jeff Hemphill, and Jean-Marc Girard. (Source: TECHCET CA)

KORCZYNSKI:  We heard from David Thompson [EDITOR’S NOTE:  Director of Process Chemistry, Applied Materials presented on “Agony in New Material Introductions -  Minimizing and Correlating Variabilities”] today on what we must control, and he gave an example of a so-called trace-contaminant that was essential for the process performance of a precursor, where the trace compound helped prevent particles from flaking off chamber walls. Do we need to specify our contaminants?

GIRARD:  Yes. To David’s point this morning, every molecule is different. Some are very tolerant due to the molecular process associated with it, and some are not. I’ll give you an example of a cobalt material that’s been talked about, where it can be run in production at perhaps 95% in terms of assay, provided that one specific contaminant is less than a couple of parts-per-million. So it’s a combination of both, it’s not assay OR a specification of impurities. It’s a matter of specifying the trace components that really matter when you reach the point that the data you gather gives you that understanding, and obviously an assay within control limits.

HEMPHILL:  Talking about whether we’re over-specifying or not, the emphasis is not about putting the right number on known parameters like assay that are obvious to measure, the emphasis is on identifying and understanding what makes up the rest of it and in a sense trying over-specify that. You identify through mass-spectrometry and other techniques that some fraction of a percent is primarily say five different species, it’s finding out how to individually monitor and track and control those as separate parameters. So from a specification point of view what we want is not necessarily the lowest possible numbers, but it’s expanding how many things we’re looking at so that we’re capturing everything that’s there.

KORCZYNSKI:  Is that something that you’re starting to push out to your suppliers?

HEMPHILL:  Yes. It depends on the application we’re talking about, but we go into it with the assumption that just assay will not be enough. Whether a single molecule or a blend of things is supposed to be there, we know that just having those be controlled by specification will not be sufficient. We go under the assumption that we are going to identify what makes up the remaining part of the profile, and those components are going to need to be controlled as well.

KORCZYNSKI:  Is that something that has changed by node? Back when things were simpler say at 45nm and larger, were these aspects of processing that we could safely ignore as ‘noise’ but are now important ‘signals’?

HEMPHILL:  Yes, we certainly didn’t pay as close attention just a couple of generations ago.

KORCZYNSKI:  That seems to lead us to questions about single-sources versus dual-sourcing. There are many good reasons to do both, but not simultaneously. However, it seems that because of all of the challenges we’re heard about over the last day-and-a-half of this conference it creates greater burden on the suppliers, and for critical materials the fabs are moving toward more single-sourcing over time.

SMYTHE:  I think that it comes down to more of a concern over geographic risk. I’ll buy from one entity if that entity has more than one geographic location for the supply, so that I’m not exposed to a single ‘Act of God’ or a ‘random statistical occurrence of global warming.’ So for example I  need to ask if a supplier has a place in the US and a place in France that makes the same thing, so that if something bad happens in one location it can still be sourced? Or do you have an alternate-supply agreement that if you can’t supply it you have an agreement with Company-X to supply it so that you still have control? You can’t come to a Micron and say we want to make sure that we get at minimum 25% no matter what, because what typically happens with second-sourcing is Company-A gets 75% of the business while Company-B gets 25%. There are a lot of reasons that that doesn’t work so well, so people may have an impression that there’s a movement toward single-source but it’s ‘single flexible-source.’

HEMPHILL:  There are a lot of benefits of dual- or multiple-sourcing. The commercial benefits of competition can be positive and we’re for it when it works. The risk is that as things are progressing and we’re getting more sensitive to differences in materials it’s getting harder to maintain that. We have seen situations where historically we were successful with dual-sourcing a raw material coming from two different suppliers or even a single supplier using two different manufacturing lines and everything was fine and qualified and we could alternate sources invisibly. However, as our sensitivity has grown over time we can start to detect differences.

So the concept of being ‘copy-exactly’ that we use in our factories, we really need production lines to do that, and if we’re talking about two different companies producing the same material then we’re not going to get them to be copy-exactly. When that results in enough of a variation in the material that we can detect it in the factory then we cannot rely upon two sources. Our preference would be one company that maintains multiple production sites that are designed to be exactly the same, then we have a high degree of confidence that they will be able to produce the same material.

FIGURE 2: Jean-Marc Girard, Distinguished Member of Technical Staff of Micron Technology, provided the supplier perspective. (Source: SEMI)

GIRARD:  I can give you a supplier perspective on that. We are seeing very different policies from different customers, to the point that we’re seeing an increase in the number of customers doing single-sourcing with us, provided we can show the ability to maintain business continuity in case of a problem. I think that the industry became mature after the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011 with greater understanding of what business continuity means. We have the same discussions with our own suppliers, who may say that they have a dedicated reactor for a certain product with another backup reactor with a certain capacity on the same site, and we ask what happens if the plant goes on strike or there’s a fire there?

A situation where you might think the supply was stable involved silane in the United States. There are two large silane plants in the United States that are very far apart from each other and many Asian manufacturers dependent upon them. When the U.S. harbors went on strike for a long time there was no way that material could ship out of the U.S. customers. So, yes there were two plants but in such an event you wouldn’t have global supply. So there is no one way to manage our supply lines and we need to have conversations with our customers to discuss the risks. How much time would it take to rebuild a supply-chain source with someone else? If you can get that sort of constructive discussion going then customers are usually open to single-sourcing. One regional aspect is that Asian customers tend to favor dual-sourcing more, but that can lead to IP problems.

[DISCLOSURE:  Ed Korczynski is co-chair of the CMC Conference, and Marketing Director of TECHCET CA the advisory services firm that administers the Critical Materials Council (CMC).]

—E.K.

Vital Control in Fab Materials Supply-Chains

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

By Ed Korczynski, Sr. Technical Editor

The inaugural Critical Materials Council (CMC) Conference, co-sponsored by Solid State Technology, happened May 5-6 in Hillsboro, Oregon. Held just after the yearly private CMC meeting, the public CMC Conference provides a forum for the pre-competitive exchange of information to control the supply-chain of critical materials needed to run high-volume manufacturing (HVM) in IC fabs. The next CMC Conference will happen May 11-12 in Dallas, Texas.

At the end of the 2016 conference, a panel discussion moderated by Ed Korczynski was recorded and transcribed. The following is an edited excerpt of the conversation between the following industry experts:

  • Jean-Marc Girard, CTO and Director of R&D, Air Liquide Advanced Materials,
  • Jonas Sundqvist, Sr. Scientist, Fraunhofer IKTS; and co-chair of ALD Conference, and
  • John Smythe, Distinguished Member of Technical Staff, Micron Technology.

KORCZYNSKI:  Let’s start with specifications: over-specifying, and under-specifying. Do we have the right methodologies to be able to estimate the approximate ‘ball-park’ range that the impurities need to be in?

GIRARD:  For determining the specifications, to some extent it doesn’t matter because we are out of the world of specs, where what matters is the control-limits. To Tim Hendry’s point in the Keynote yesterday [EDITOR’S NOTE:  Tim G. Hendrey, vice president of the Technology and Manufacturing Group and director of Fab Materials at Intel Corporation provided a conference keynote address on “Process Control Methods for Advanced Materials”], what was really interesting is instead of the common belief that we should start by supplying the product with the lowest possible variability, instead we should try to explore the window in which the product is working. So getting 10 containers from the same batch and introducing deliberate variability so that you know the process space in which you can play. That is the most important information to be able to reach the most reasonable and data-driven numbers to specify control limits. A lot of specs in the past were primarily determined by marketing decisions instead of data.

FIGURE 1: Jonas Sundqvist, Sr. Scientist of Fraunhofer IKTS, discusses collaboration with industry on application-specific ALD R&D. (Source: TECHCET CA)

SUNDQVIST:  Like the first introduction of what were called “super-clean” ALD precursors for the original MIS DRAM capacitors, Samsung used about 10nm of hafnium-aluminate and it would not matter if there was slight contamination in the precursors because you were not trying to control for a specific high-k phase. Whereas now you are doping very precisely and you have already scaled thinness so over time the specification for high-k precursors has become more important.

SMYTHE:  I think it comes down to the premise that when you are doing vapor transport through a bubbler that some would argue that that’s like a distillation column. So it’s a matter of thinking about what is transporting and what isn’t. In some cases the contaminant you’re concerned about is in the ampule but it never makes it to the process chamber, or the act of oxidizing destroys it as a volatile byproduct. So I think the bigger issue is change-management not necessarily the exact specification. You must know what you have, and agree that a single adjustment to improve the productivity of chemical synthesis requires that ‘fingerprinting’ must be done to show the same results. The argument is that you do not accept “less-than” as part of a specification, you only accept what it is.

AUDIENCE QUESTION:  The systems in which these precursors are used also have ‘memory’ based on the prior reactions in the chamber and byproducts that get absorbed on walls. When these byproducts come out in subsequent processing they can alter conditions so that you’re actually running in CVD-mode instead of ALD-mode. Chamber effects can wash-out a lot of value of having really pure chemicals moving through a delivery system into a chamber and picking up contaminants that you spent a whole lot of money taking out at the point of delivery. What do you think about that?

GIRARD:  Well, this is a ‘crisis!’ When something like this starts to happen in a fab or even during the development cycles, you can’t prioritize resources and approaches you just have to do everything. Sometimes it’s the tool, sometimes it’s the chemical, sometimes it’s the interaction of the two, sometimes it’s back-streaming from the vacuum sub-system…there are so many ways that things can go wrong. Certainly you have to clear up the chemistry part as early as possible.

SUNDQVIST:  We work with zirconium precursors for ALD, and you can develop a precursor that gives you a very pure ALD process that really works like an ALD process should. However, you can still use the TEMA-Zr precursor, that in processing has a CVD component which you can use that to gain throughput. So you can have a really good ALD precursor that gives low particle-counts and good process stability and ideal thermal processing range, but the growth rate goes down by 20% so you’re not very popular in the fab. Many things change when you make an ‘improved’ molecule to perfect the process, and sometime you want to use an imperfect part of the process.

FIGURE 2: John Smythe, Distinguished Member of Technical Staff of Micron Technology, explains approaches to controlling materials all the way to point-of-use. (Source: TECHCET CA)

SMYTHE:  What we’re doing a lot more these days is doing chamber finger-printing, where we’re putting a quad-filtered mass-spec on each chamber—not a cheap little RGA, but real analytical-grade—and it’s been enlightening. If you look at your chemistry moving through a delivery line using something like the Schrødenger software, it’s not a big deal to see that you can use the mass spec to see some synthesis happening in the line. We joke and call it ‘point of use synthesis’ but it’s not very funny. We are used to having spare delivery lines built-in so we can install tools to try to gain insights to prevent what we’ve been talking about.

KORCZYNSKI:  John, since Micron has fabs in Lehi and fabs in Singapore and other places, while they do run different product loads, do you have to worry about how long it takes things to travel on a slow boat to Singapore? Do you have to stockpile things more strategically these days, and does that effect your receiving department?

SMYTHE:  What we really need are a few good ocean-going hydrofoil ships! The most complete answer is we first identify which things need ‘batch-qual’ so if we do a batch-qual in Virginia and know that material is going to Taiwan that we have confidence it will pass batch-qual in Taiwan. There are certain materials that we require information on which synthesis batch, which production batch, and sometimes which bottling batch. Sometimes you take a yield hit because you didn’t have the right vision, and then you institute batch qual.

I think most of you are familiar with the concept of ‘ship-to-stock,’ when you have enough good statistical history and a good change management process with the supplier then you can do ship-to-stock and that reduces the batch-qual overhead. On a case by case basis you have to figure out how difficult that is. A small story I can tell is that with Block Co-Polymer (BCP) self-assembly we found one particular element that in concentration above 5 ppm prevented the poly-styrene from self-assembling in the same way, whereas other metal trace contaminants could be a hundred times higher and have no effect on the process. So this gets back to some of our earlier discussion that it’s not enough to know that your trace elements are below some level. Tell me the exact atoms and the exact counts and then we’ll talk about using them. The BCP R&D taught us that in some situations just changing from one batch to the next could increase defects a thousands times. So we will see a bigger push to counting atoms.

[DISCLOSURE:  Ed Korczynski is co-chair of the CMC Conference, and Marketing Director of TECHCET CA the advisory services firm that administers the Critical Materials Council (CMC).]

—E.K.

Air-Gaps for FinFETs Shown at IEDM

Friday, October 28th, 2016

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By Ed Korczynski, Sr. Technical Editor

Researchers from IBM and Globalfoundries will report on the first use of “air-gaps” as part of the dielectric insulation around active gates of “10nm-node” finFETs at the upcoming International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) of the IEEE (ieee-iedm.org). Happening in San Francisco in early December, IEDM 2016 will again provide a forum for the world’s leading R&D teams to show off their latest-greatest devices, including 7nm-node finFETs by IBM/Globalfoundries/Samsung and by TSMC. Air-gaps reduce the dielectric capacitance that slows down ICs, so their integration into transistor structures leads to faster logic chips.

History of Airgaps – ILD and IPD

As this editor recently covered at SemiMD, in 1998, Ben Shieh—then a researcher at Stanford University and now a foundry interface for Apple Corp.—first published (Shieh, Saraswat & McVittie. IEEE Electron Dev. Lett., January 1998) on the use of controlled pitch design combined with CVD dielectrics to form “pinched-off keyholes” in cross-sections of inter-layer dielectrics (ILD).

In 2007, IBM researchers showed a way to use sacrificial dielectric layers as part of a subtractive process that allows air-gaps to be integrated into any existing dielectric structure. In an interview with this editor at that time, IBM Fellow Dan Edelstein explained, “we use lithography to etch a narrow channel down so it will cap off, then deliberated damage the dielectric and etch so it looks like a balloon. We get a big gap with a drop in capacitance and then a small slot that gets pinched off.

Intel presented on their integration of air-gaps into on-chip interconnects at IITC in 2010 but delayed use until the company’s 14nm-node reached production in 2014. 2D-NAND fabs have been using air-gaps as part of the inter-poly dielectric (IPD) for many years, so there is precedent for integration near the gate-stack.

Airgaps for finFETs

Now researchers from IBM and Globalfoundries will report in (IEDM Paper #17.1, “Air Spacer for 10nm FinFET CMOS and Beyond,” K. Cheng et al) on the first air-gaps used at the transistor level in logic. Figure 1 shows that for these “10nm-node” finFETs the dielectric spacing—including the air-gap and both sides of the dielectric liner—is about 10 nm. The liner needs to be ~2nm thin so that ~1nm of ultra-low-k sacrificial dielectric remains on either side of the ~5nm air-gap.

Fig.1: Schematic of partial air-gaps only above fin tops using dielectric liners to protect gate stacks during air-gap formation for 10nm finFET CMOS and beyond. (source: IEDM 2016, Paper#17.1, Fig.12)

These air-gaps reduced capacitance at the transistor level by as much as 25%, and in a ring oscillator test circuit by as much as 15%. The researchers say a partial integration scheme—where the air-gaps are formed only above the tops of fin— minimizes damage to the FinFET, as does the high-selectivity etching process used to fabricate them.

Figure 2 shows a cross-section transmission electron micrograph (TEM) of what can go wrong with etch-back air-gaps when all of the processes are not properly controlled. Because there are inherent process:design interactions needed to form repeatable air-gaps of desired shapes, this integration scheme should be extendable “beyond” the “10-nm node” to finFETs formed at tighter pitches. However, it seems likely that “5nm-node” logic FETs will use arrays of horizontal silicon nano-wires (NW), for which more complex air-gap integration schemes would seem to be needed.

Fig.2: TEM image of FinFET transistor damage—specifically, erosion of the fin and source-drain epitaxy—by improper etch-back of the air-gaps at 10nm dimensions. (source: IEDM 2016, Paper#17.1, Fig.10)

—E.K.

Global Neon Demand Expected to Exceed Increasing Supply

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

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By Ed Korczynski, Sr. Technical Editor

Neon (Ne) gas is a critical material for advanced semiconductor manufacturing because it is needed to blend with KrF and ArF gases as laser sources for lithographic steppers. High purity neon is separated from atmospheric gases and then purified using cryogenic processes in massive industrial facilities. Linde Electronics and Specialty Gases has made yet another investment to support its vertically integrated neon supply chain, by adding neon production capability to the company’s largest US based atmospheric gases unit (ASU) in La Porte, Texas, which produces oxygen, nitrogen and argon for the petroleum and petrochemical markets in the Houston area.

The total of more than US$250 million investment also includes upgrades to Linde’s purification and distribution capabilities at several locations around the world. The new production unit will add 40 million liters annually to Linde’s Ne supply, primarily to support customers in the semiconductor lithography and laser vision correction markets. “The unit attached to the ASU is being installed and will come on line this year,” explained Matt Adams, vice president, Electronics and Premium Products, Linde in an exclusive interview with the Show Daily. “Linde is also a multi-billion-dollar engineering company, and we have many ASUs around the world so that allows us to add rare-gas capture capacity globally.”

The Figure shows a recently published neon supply:demand forecast published by the Techcet Group. Brooks Hurd, Sr. Technology Analyst, Techcet explained to the Show Daily why it looks like Ne demand will eclipse supply by 2019, despite efforts to reduce gas use in lithography stepper tools and the use of neon recycling by large fabs. Capture of Ne from large ASU and purification/rectification are technologically challenging, such that few suppliers other than Linde have this capability. Outside of IC lithography, if the most aggressive forecasts for OLED FPD manufacturing are to be believed then the demand for laser annealing in OLED fabs could exceed the total demand of all IC fabs soon. The overall global supply picture including neon developments in Ukraine, US, and PRC, as well as the demand side dynamics are covered in the Techcet Neon Report and quarterly updates.

Global neon supply and demand forecasts through 2023. (Source: Techcet)

Recycling neon

“We’re able to capture better than 80% of the neon being used on the tool, and then send it back to one of our neon purifier to be returned to it’s original specification,” asserted Linde’s Adams. “The benefits to the fab are not so much about economics, but more about stability of supply.” The waste stream is captured and then shipped to a local Linde facility where the purification occurs and any blending needed to bring the composition back to that required for laser gases. To that end Linde has also announced investment into fluorine gas production.

“Linde already has a deep understanding of the latest technologies, OEM activity and customer requirements,” Adams said. “We have decades of experience in refining our global production, analytics, distribution and local stocking/service network. We believe this new investment will allow Linde to further enhance this leadership position well into the future.” All visitors are welcome to visit Linde in booth number 1505 in the South hall in the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

Brooks Hurd, Sr. Technology Analyst with Techcet CA, commented, “When you’re designing a recycling system for laser gases you have to know what you are feeding it, and don’t expect that knowledge to be easy to get. Anybody wanting to recycle laser gases has to do an evaluation to determine what specific compounds are in the effluent stream.” For example, while fluorine has to be present, any time there is residual oxygen there will be undetermined oxy-fluorides forming.

Applied Materials Releases Selective Etch Tool

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

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By Ed Korczynski, Sr. Technical Editor

Applied Materials has disclosed commercial availability of new Selectra(TM) selective etch twin-chamber hardware for the company’s high-volume manufacturing (HVM) Producer® platform. Using standard fluorine and chlorine gases already used in traditional Reactive Ion Etch (RIE) chambers, this new tool provides atomic-level precision in the selective removal of materials in 3D devices structures increasingly used for the most advanced silicon ICs. The tool is already in use at three customer fabs for finFET logic HVM, and at two memory fab customers, with a total of >350 chambers planned to have been shipped to many customers by the end of 2016.

Figure 1 shows a simplified cross-sectional schematic of the Selectra chamber, where the dashed white line indicates some manner of screening functionality so that “Ions are blocked, chemistry passes through” according to the company. In an exclusive interview with Solid State Technology, company representative refused to disclose any hardware details. “We are using typical chemistries that are used in the industry,” explained Ajay Bhatnagar, managing director of Selective Removal Products for Applied Materials. “If there are specific new applications needed than we can use new chemistry. We have a lot of IP on how we filter ions and how we allow radicals to combine on the wafer to create selectivity.”

FIG 1: Simplified cross-sectional schematic of a silicon wafer being etched by the neutral radicals downstream of the plasma in the Selectra chamber. (Source: Applied Materials)

From first principles we can assume that the ion filtering is accomplished with some manner of electrically-grounded metal screen. This etch technology accomplishes similar process results to Atomic Layer Etch (ALE) systems sold by Lam, while avoiding the need for specialized self-limiting chemistries and the accompanying chamber throughput reductions associated with pulse-purge process recipes.

“What we are doing is being able to control the amount of radicals coming to the wafer surface and controlling the removal rates very uniformly across the wafer surface,” asserted Bhatnagar. “If you have this level of atomic control then you don’t need the self-limiting capability. Most of our customers are controlling process with time, so we don’t need to use self-limiting chemistry.” Applied Materials claims that this allows the Selectra tool to have higher relative productivity compared to an ALE tool.

Due to the intrinsic 2D resolutions limits of optical lithography, leading IC fabs now use multi-patterning (MP) litho flows where sacrificial thin-films must be removed to create the final desired layout. Due to litho limits and CMOS device scaling limits, 2D logic transistors are being replaced by 3D finFETs and eventually Gate-All-Around (GAA) horizontal nanowires (NW). Due to dielectric leakage at the atomic scale, 2D NAND memory is being replaced by 3D-NAND stacks. All of these advanced IC fab processes require the removal of atomic-scale materials with extreme selectivity to remaining materials, so the Selectra chamber is expected to be a future work-horse for the industry.

When the industry moves to GAA-NW transistors, alternating layers of Si and SiGe will be grown on the wafer surface, 2D patterned into fins, and then the sacrificial SiGe must be selectively etched to form 3D arrays of NW. Figure 2 shows the SiGe etched from alternating Si/SiGe stacks using a Selectra tool, with sharp Si corners after etch indicating excellent selectivity.

FIG 2: SEM cross-section showing excellent etch of SiGe within alternating Si/SiGe layers, as will be needed for Gate-All-Around (GAA) horizontal NanoWire (NW) transistor formation. (Source: Applied Materials)

“One of the fundamental differences between this system and old downstream plasma ashers, is that it was designed to provide extreme selectivity to different materials,” said Matt Cogorno, global product manager of Selective Removal Products for Applied Materials. “With this system we can provide silicon to titanium-nitride selectivity at 5000:1, or silicon to silicon-nitride selectivity at 2000:1. This is accomplished with the unique hardware architecture in the chamber combined with how we mix the chemistries. Also, there is no polymer formation in the etch process, so after etching there are no additional processing issues with the need for ashing and/or a wet-etch step to remove polymers.”

Systems can also be used to provide dry cleaning and surface-preparation due to the extreme selectivity and damage-free material removal.  “You can control the removal rates,” explained Cogorno. “You don’t have ions on the wafer, but you can modulate the number of radicals coming down.” For HVM of ICs with atomic-scale device structures, this new tool can widen process windows and reduce costs compared to both dry RIE and wet etching.

—E.K.

Solid State Watch: May 20-26, 2016

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016
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Solid State Watch: May 13-19, 2016

Monday, May 23rd, 2016
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