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1.1 Semiconductor Fabrication Processes

Starting with an uniformly doped silicon wafer, the fabrication of integrated circuits (IC's) needs hundreds of sequential process steps. The most important process steps used in the semiconductor fabrication are [1]:

1.1.1 Lithography

Lithography is used to transfer a pattern from a photomask to the surface of the wafer. For example the gate area of a MOS transistor is defined by a specific pattern. The pattern information is recorded on a layer of photoresist which is applied on the top of the wafer. The photoresist changes its physical properties when exposed to light (often ultraviolet) or another source of illumination (e.g. X-ray). The photoresist is either developed by (wet or dry) etching or by conversion to volatile compounds through the exposure itself. The pattern defined by the mask is either removed or remained after development, depending if the type of resist is positive or negative. For example the developed photoresist can act as an etching mask for the underlying layers.

1.1.2 Etching

Etching is used to remove material selectively in order to create patterns. The pattern is defined by the etching mask, because the parts of the material, which should remain, are protected by the mask. The unmasked material can be removed either by wet (chemical) or dry (physical) etching. Wet etching is strongly isotropic which limits its application and the etching time can be controlled difficultly. Because of the so-called under-etch effect, wet etching is not suited to transfer patterns with sub-micron feature size. However, wet etching has a high selectivity (the etch rate strongly depends on the material) and it does not damage the material. On the other side dry etching is highly anisotropic but less selective. But it is more capable for transfering small structures.

1.1.3 Deposition

A multitude of layers of different materials have to be deposited during the IC fabrication process. The two most important deposition methods are the physical vapor deposition (PVD) and the chemical vapor deposition (CVD). During PVD accelerated gas ions sputter particles from a sputter target in a low pressure plasma chamber. The principle of CVD is a chemical reaction of a gas mixture on the substrate surface at high temperatures. The need of high temperatures is the most restricting factor for applying CVD. This problem can be avoided with plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD), where the chemical reaction is enhanced with radio frequencies instead of high temperatures. An important aspect for this technique is the uniformity of the deposited material, especially the layer thickness. CVD has a better uniformity than PVD.

1.1.4 Chemical Mechanical Planarization

Processes like etching, deposition, or oxidation, which modify the topography of the wafer surface lead to a non-planar surface. Chemical mechanical planarization (CMP) is used to plane the wafer surface with the help of a chemical slurry. First, a planar surface is necessary for lithography due to a correct pattern transfer. Furthermore, CMP enables indirect pattering, because the material removal always starts on the highest areas of the wafer surface. This means that at defined lower lying regions like a trench the material can be left. Together with the deposition of non-planar layers, CMP is an effective method to build up IC structures.

1.1.5 Oxidation

Oxidation is a process which converts silicon on the wafer into silicon dioxide. The chemical reaction of silicon and oxygen already starts at room temperature but stops after a very thin native oxide film. For an effective oxidation rate the wafer must be settled to a furnace with oxygen or water vapor at elevated temperatures. Silicon dioxide layers are used as high-quality insulators or masks for ion implantation. The ability of silicon to form high quality silicon dioxide is an important reason, why silicon is still the dominating material in IC fabrication.

1.1.6 Ion Implantation

Ion implantation is the dominant technique to introduce dopant impurities into crystalline silicon. This is performed with an electric field which accelerates the ionized atoms or molecules so that these particles penetrate into the target material until they come to rest because of interactions with the silicon atoms. Ion implantation is able to control exactly the distribution and dose of the dopants in silicon, because the penetration depth depends on the kinetic energy of the ions which is proportional to the electric field. The dopant dose can be controlled by varying the ion source. Unfortunately, after ion implantation the crystal structure is damaged which implies worse electrical properties. Another problem is that the implanted dopants are electrically inactive, because they are situated on interstitial sites. Therefore after ion implantation a thermal process step is necessary which repairs the crystal damage and activates the dopants.

1.1.7 Diffusion

Diffusion is the movement of impurity atoms in a semiconductor material at high temperatures. The driving force of diffusion is the concentration gradient. There is a wide range of diffusivities for the various dopant species, which depend on how easy the respective dopant impurity can move through the material. Diffusion is applied to anneal the crystal defects after ion implantation or to introduce dopant atoms into silicon from a chemical vapor source. In the last case the diffusion time and temperature determine the depth of dopant penetration. Diffusion is used to form the source, drain, and channel regions in a MOS transistor. But diffusion can also be an unwanted parasitic effect, because it takes place during all high temperature process steps.

next up previous contents
Next: 1.2 Isolation Techniques Up: 1. Introduction Previous: 1. Introduction

Ch. Hollauer: Modeling of Thermal Oxidation and Stress Effects