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080613: Process integration drives the IC industry
Ed’s Threads 080613
The last musings in this blog on Friday the 13th of June, 2008

Process integration drives the IC industry
The next 10 years will witness more changes in mainstream manufacturing technology for ICs than in the last 40 years combined. An industry based on “what have you done for me lately” can never rest on its laurels, and so innovation must continue, despite limits in 2D scaling. With rapidly escalating costs projected for 32nm node and smaller digital CMOS manufacturing, it is inevitable that IC companies look to analog, packaging, and heterogeneous integration to add relatively greater value for lower cost and risk. Unique process integration challenges at each fab will drive everything for the next ten years, as shown recently by presentations at the recent International Interconnect Technology Conference IITC., some of which I've already discussed in this blog.

What are the ramifications of all of these subtle changes? With basic “unit-process” building blocks fairly well established, it is likely that the only fundamentally new tools to be developed will be for metrology. The current generation of thin-film, lithography, and thermal processing tools are extremely productive and should continue to be used with modest evolutionary upgrades over the next 10 years. The only exception to this is probably EUV lithography, which is still under development but shows promise.

New integration of old processes can be seen in the evolution of barrier layers for Cu metal in dual-damascene structures. At IITC, Novellus showed that PVD Ti/TiN is the newest Cu barrier to replace Ta -- though Ti is the standard barrier for Al metal lines it was replaced by Ta when the industry first began using Cu lines. Though less expensive than Ta, Ti can react with both fluorine (in FSG dielectric) and Cu and so was not considered to be an acceptable barrier. However, now that FSG has been replaced with SiOC in many fabs, a 5nm thin TiN layer (formed with 50 at% N) capping on Ti stops Cu diffusion. An ultra-thin PVD Ti wetting layer on top of the TiN provides a good surface for ECD fill of Cu.

NEC has targeted high-reliability automobile MCUs, and examined PVD Ti/Ru barrier metal for these applications. After 7 hours at 350°C, Ti diffuses into the Ru, but no Cu diffuses through the Ti. PVD-Ru with (001) orientation can be removed by CMP using conventional slurry for Ta/TaN removal. The Ru barrier achieved 12% lower resistance than the conventional Ta type barrier for 70nm wide Cu lines, while time-dependent dielectric breakdown (TDDB) was unchanged. The Ru/Ti barrier shows 35× longer lifetime (T50) than Ta/TaN. Whatever process is finally developed will run for over 10 years with essentially no changes, as per the supply contracts to the auto industry. I toured NEC Roseville recently and saw old 200mm tools being installed with plans to run for >10 years using ≥150nm node processes.

Low-k air-gaps are also great examples of using old unit-processes in new ways, since CVD oxides (SiOx and SiOC) and spin-on polymers already well developed will be used, while established lithography and etching technologies will complete the integration. EDN's Ron Wilson covered many of the latest air-gap integration details from IITC in his fine blog, but the most important consideration is that no new manufacturing tools are needed to make them happen. Designs may need to be tweaked, and the process integration will be challenging, but this approach is relatively low-risk and may be integrated into older fab lines.

Further proving that “there is no more noise (…there is only signal),” IMEC’s Michele Stucchi at IITC examined the effects of inherent line-edge roughness (LER) and via misalignments on the Efield and electrical breakdown between wires. An enhanced electrical field between adjacent lines is induced by LER-induced reduction in spacing. Compared to a nominal electrical field between lines with zero LER, a probabilistic analysis results in enhancement to the field, which can be a factor >2 in 30nm spaced lines. For wires with 30nm spacing, Efield may be high enough to guarantee at least one bridge in 20μm of line length. For via misalignment of 10nm in standard dual-damascene structures with 30nm spacing, the field enhancement can be a factor >3.

An amazing example of tricky process integration to eliminate variability in lithography was shown by Matthew Breitwisch of IBM, in describing work with Macronyx on phase-change memory (PCM) technology. Ge2Sb2Te5 (GST) was the first material investigated which changes from a high-resistance amorphous structure to a low-resistance crystal at ~170°C. A PCM cell is made up of a variable resistor in series with an access device (which may be a diode, BJT, or FET), and current flux near one million A/cm2 is needed for a few nanoseconds to create the change. To concentrate the current in programming, uniform small pores are achieved using a key-hole (a.k.a., “pinch-off CVD”) process:

- blanket oxide, hardmask and nitride depositions,
- lithography,
- anisotropic etching through the dielectric stack,
- an isotropic oxide etch to create an undercut below the hardmask, and
- conformal polysilicon CVD to form consistent 43nm wide keyholes.

The keyhole widths are controlled by the oxide etch and the poly CVD, and not by the lithography, such that equally sized pores form in the middle of line spaces of varying width…all without any new unit-processes.

With razor-thin process windows and systematic process-design interactions, each fab may have to optimize its own integrated process flow. If each fab runs a unique flow, then a mask-set run on one line will yield very differently on a second line, and this reality may create problems for companies trying dual-sourcing with foundries.

New materials and evolutionary upgrades to old materials will continue to support new integration schemes in fabs, while most of the tools will remain the same. However, OEM applications labs will run non-stop as fabs try new designs-of-experiments (DOE) for new integration schemes. It will be increasingly difficult to get process information out of fabs, since each line will have to be set up with unique tricks and integration schemes. Designers will have to really start innovating, as digital CMOS shrinks no longer guarantee lower cost and higher performance.

There will be many IC types that will probably never be designed at the 32nm node. A friend working on a graphics processing chip explained to me that they needed to go to 65nm to get a speed improvement for their target application, but their modeling shows that additional speed will now provide no user benefit. Going to 45nm adds huge design costs and manufacturing yield risk, and so they now plan to stick to 65nm but work on cost and power optimization in re-design. Their next 65nm chip may use 3D interconnects or integrated passives for improved performance, however, so innovation will continue… just in new directions. Such is the blessing/curse of “living in interesting times.”

Henceforth, my challenges will be elsewhere. This is my last blog post on my last day as a Technical Editor for Solid State Technology magazine; I am resigning to pursue other interests, first of which will be an immediate 8-week sabbatical. When I return, I will probably work for the semiconductor manufacturing industry, in an as-yet undetermined capacity that doubtlessly will be "interesting." I thank PennWell Publishing for years of rewarding employment, and wish the company well. Special thanks to James Montgomery, who diligently and masterfully copy edited most of these 76 postings.


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080602: IITC shows the way to 3D
Ed’s Threads 080602
Musings by Ed Korczynski on June 2, 2008

IITC shows the way to 3D
The 11th International Interconnect Technology Conference (IITC) started today in Burlingame near the San Francisco airport. Once again, the leading-edge of on-chip interconnect technology developments were presented, with details on new materials, processes, and structures. 3D interconnects and through-silicon vias (TSV) were discussed in serious detail, while work continues on air-gap dielectrics and carbon nanotubes (CNT) along with new copper barrier materials.

3D with TSV may be considered as the ultimate interconnect concept, since stacked chips provide optimal functionality/volume, and provide for relatively low-cost heterogeneous integration of diverse technologies such as sensors. TSV and the many variations thereof have been hot topics in 3D for many years, with “via-last” being done today in production for memory stacks needing typically <100 TSV per chip. In contrast, “via-first” TSV processing flows may produce thousands per chip, and there are many integration schemes possible. IITC publicity chairman (and IBM researcher) Michael Shapiro commented that, “3D is such a ‘silicon-centric’ process technology that the IITC is really the place to have the discussion, because all the experts of silicon etching and planarization are here and have always been here.”

Fraunhofer IZM (Institute for Reliability and Microintegration) in Munich has been leading the world in 3D-IC work for over ten years, and researchers from there have been developing detailed system-level heterogeneous integration schemes for wireless applications (for the European 3D integrated sensor program “e-CUBES”). Their target is die-to-wafer (D2W) stacking of a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). The wafer has the microcontroller chips, onto which are stacked chips for the RF transceiver, pressure sensor, and bulk acoustic resonator (BAR). For TSV, they integrate chips with both solid metal trenches (typically W filled ~20 µm deep) or hollow vias coated with doped poly-silicon (through the 300 µm thick pressure sensor).

Researchers from Georgia Tech built upon work they first showed three years ago at IITC, and together with IBM and Nanonexus showed real results of using integrated microchannel cooling to remove heat from 3D-IC stacks. Fluidic microchannels were fabricated at the wafer-level using four lithography steps, and the resulting chips showed thermal resistance of just 0.24°C/W compared to 0.6°C/W for equivalent 65nm node air-cooled chips. With reduced thermal resistance, significant advances in speed, power, and/or operating temperature can be achieved; for example, power could be reduced ~20% at the same frequency, or the frequency could increase 10% at the same power.

Basic materials integration challenges of 3D integration were shown in two presentations by IMEC. Micro-Raman spectroscopy (µRS) was used to determine the plastic yield criterion for an accurate finite element modeling (FEM) of the stress near Cu-filled TSV. Due to the inherent mismatch between CTE of Cu (16.7 ppm/°C) and Si (2.3 ppm/°C), some strain will be inherent, and it may degrade electrical carrier mobility. Defining an “exclusion zone” of transistors from the TSV such that mobility degrades <5%,>
IMEC researchers also looked at reliability in a presentation on “Resistance to electromigration of purely intermetallic micro-bump interconnections for 3D-device stacking.” Both Cu-Sn and Co-Sn were shown to withstand 1000 hours of testing at the extremely aggressive conditions of 150°C and 0.63mA/µm2).

Scott Pozder of Freescale Semiconductor showed an excellent poster on Cu-Sn microconnects formed simultaneously with an adhesive dielectric bond using thermal compression bonding of flipped dice on a wafer. After D2W bonding using Cookson F602 material at micropad pitches of 59, 64, and 69µm, the robustness of the bond was shown by grinding the bonded dice to 50µm thin using a Disco Hi-Tec tool. While no TSV are used in this die-to-wafer stack, this pragmatic approach based on standard unit-processes which can be found in the open foundry market shows one clear way forward toward 3D today.

Tohoku University researchers showed one way to cut costs in D2W bonding: use a rough lithographic step to form hydrophobic and hydrophilic areas on the wafer, add an aqueous coating and then roughly place the dice. The surface tension of the liquid induces the dice to self-align, and control of the ambient can allow for the liquid to evaporate which temporarily bonds the dice to the wafer. The average alignment accuracy on 100 dice was ~0.5µm, with most dice aligned within <1µm and all <1.5µm.

D2W stacking of 3D chips allows for the used of known good dice (KGD) and the associated minimization of yield losses anticipated with wafer-to-wafer (W2W) stacking. D2W stacking technology will first follow Freescale’s lead by flipping the top die for two levels of silicon, but TSV and three or more levels will certain follow.

Much of the limitation in the use of TSV today remains with the designers; lacking EDA tools, it is not only difficult to optimize a design for 3D, it is challenging to just try to quantify the potential benefits in advance. Until EDA tools are ready the greatest potential value of 3D stacking will not be seen, and most commercial TSV will continue to be used for memory stacks and CMOS image sensors.

This is the last year in which interconnect technologists living in the San Francisco bay area have the exclusive luxury of the International Interconnect Technology Conference being local. Next year (June 1-3, 2009), the 12th IITC will occur in Sapporo, Japan at the Royton Sapporo hotel. The 2010 meeting will be back in the San Francisco bay area, and then the 2011 meeting is expected to occur somewhere in Europe.


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080407: CNT and graphene dreams may be real
Ed’s Threads 080407
Musings by Ed Korczynski on April 7, 2008

CNT and graphene dreams may be real
Carbon nano-tubes (CNT) are the only viable (pun-intended) new materials being developed to replace copper as the electrical interconnects for future ICs. There are no known room-temperature superconductors, and optical interconnects require relatively slow and expensive lasers and detectors, and CNTs are the future. The theory and practice of growing CNTs was thoroughly reviewed at this spring’s Materials Research Society (MRS) meeting, and the applications as electronic IC interconnects will be seen at the International Interconnect Technology Conference (IITC) to be held in Burlingame, California in June. The deadline for submitting late news to IITC is this Friday.

Carbon can form an amazing variety of stable crystals and molecules based on different bond energies and angles between atoms. In crystalline form, sp2 electron orbitals can form 2D planes of graphite or sp3 electron orbitals can form 3D tetrahedral of diamond. The 2D form of solid carbon shows very interesting properties when reduced down to less than a few atomic layers.

Graphene is one or two atomic layers only, which results in geometrically induced electron energy-band modification and the ability to form semiconducting devices. Graphene is a great potential “long-shot” technology first reported in January 2006 Solid State Technology…sure to generate many Ph.D. theses and likely to benefit DARPA programs…but still quite a way away from proven as commercially manufacturable. As Gordon Moore reminds us in this recent interview, “The actual idea of an MOS transistor was patented in the mid-'20s,” though it was not until over 40 years later that Intel started making a business out of it.

Take 60 carbon atoms and you can coax them together into a cage-like spheroid called a “buckyball” or fullerene (C60)—initially predicted by R. Buckminster Fuller based on the potential for stable bond-angles in regular polyhedra—which has the same 2D form as graphene. Larger and more complex carbon cage molecules can be formed, and seem to be formed naturally by stars in space. Take a continuous supply of carbon atoms and you can coax them together using a catalyst particle into growing as a nano-tube with that same basic 2D form. You can grow both single-walled CNT (SWCNT) and multi-walled CNT (MWCNT). Both grow off of metal catalyst particles, which must somehow first be deposited in the bottom of vias to form interconnects between lines; making the connection on the top side seems like it will be inherently a bit tricky.

At IITC this year, researchers from MIRAI-Selete and Waseda University (Japan) will show actual integration results for CNT in 160nm diameter vias at temperatures as low as 365°C. The team will report that the CNT fabrication process didn’t degrade a fragile low-k (2.6) dielectric and that the vias sustained a current density as high as 5.0 MA/cm2 at 105°C for 100 hours with no deterioration.

SEM cross-sections of 160nm-diameter CNT vias fabricated with growth temperatures of (a) 450°C and (b) 400°C (IITC2008 Paper #12.4, “Robustness of CNT Via Interconnect Fabricated by Low Temperature Process over a High-Density Current,” A. Kawabata et al.)

One of the reasons that MRS meetings are exciting for materials scientists and engineers is that truly leading results are shown. Oleg Kuznetsov et al.—from Honda Research Institute in Columbus OH (USA) and Goteborg University (Sweden) and Duke University (USA)—presented information on the size-dependence peculiarities of small catalyst clusters and their effect on SWCNT growth. Though exact mechanisms are not fully understood yet, we know that nano-scale catalysts particles play key roles in growth, and that sizes alter growth properties. The general background assumption is a vapor-liquid-solid (VLS) model for growth: carbon in the vapor phase is absorbed into the catalyst particle as a liquid from which solid SWCNT grows out. An observed ‘paradox’ is that with decrease of catalyst size from 3nm to 1nm the required minimum temperature for SWCNT growth increases. Molecular dynamics simulations revealed that reducing the catalyst particle size reduces its solubility of carbon atoms and thereby requires higher temperature for SWCNT growth.

Since the researchers used Fe as the catalyst for SWCNT growth, their rigorous modeling work included a re-working of the classic Fe-C phase diagram where they showed that SWCNTs grow in a liquidous region above the Eutectic point. The Fe-C phase diagram is arguably the foundation of modern materials engineering, since it shows how to make the varieties of steel which are the physical backbone of construction in our age, and is taught in all undergraduate materials science courses. While I haven’t been looking very hard, but this is the first time I’ve seen something new in a Fe-C phase diagram since I left MIT in 1984.


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Anonymous Joel Cook said...

I had always understood that the discoverers of the fullerenes (Curl, Kroto and Smalley) named C60 "Buckminsterfullerene" since the structure they elucidated resembled one of his geodesic domes. I had never understood that Buckminster Fuller had predicted the C60 allotrope of carbon a priori as you state.

Wed Apr 09, 08:06:00 AM PDT  
Blogger SST's Ed's Threads said...

Hi Joel: While I cannot comment on what the discoverers of the fullerenes knew of Fuller's work (so they may have only known of geodesic domes), Fuller predicted the 60-atom structure would be a stable molecule based on first principles of what he called "synergetics" ( without predicting that carbon would be the first element shown in this form. Of course, the geodesic dome was first shown only because Fuller had used synergetics principles...he did not discover the geodesic dome first and then derive an explanation for how it could be stable...he conceived of a stable structure from first principles and then showed it.

Wed Apr 09, 12:07:00 PM PDT  

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080211: IITC process units and integration
Ed’s Threads 080211
Musings by Ed Korczynski on February 11, 2008

IITC process units and integration
The International Interconnect Technology Conference (IITC) has issued its 11th call for papers, and for a change it will explicitly focus on unit processes (and new materials) while continuing to cover the leading edge of integration. The main deadline for paper submissions has now passed, but a limited number of late papers will be accepted until April 11th. The shift in emphasis toward covering unit processes is due to the divergence of integration options moving forward.

Manufacturing ICs on silicon wafers is very complex; hundreds of “unit process” steps (e.g., clean, inspection, etch, deposition, etc) are combined into dozens of “integrated process modules” to form functional structures. One integrated process module may form high-performance transistors, another module forms contacts to transistors, and yet another module forms interconnects between contacts. Many of the unit process steps are copied between modules, and thus has it been since the 1960s.

During the last twenty years, the digital CMOS shrink has been the one process integration direction uniting all the different unit processes under development. The set of requirements for the next node/generation of digital CMOS was always the most challenging for equipment manufacturers working on unit processes. However, starting with the 45nm node, the integration of unit processes has become so complex that there is no one obvious solution for all fabs.

Dr. Thomas Caulfield, EVP of sales, marketing, and customer service for Novellus Systems and former technology executive with IBM, talked with WaferNEWS about the changes in the development of unit-processes in the industry. “As an industry becomes commoditized, how to you differentiate? You either have more efficient design, or more efficient unit processes that allow you to get more productivity or functionality out of the manufacturing. So the last thing you want is the same integrated process,” explained Caulfield. With the leading-edge of IC manufacturing ever increasing in complexity, the productivity of tools used in the fab must increase just to keep costs the same.

Consider the process module to form contacts as an example of integration. Today, the formation of advanced contacts requires something like the following sequence of unit processes:

1) CVD of a blanket dielectric layer,
2) Thermal treatment to stabilize/planarize,
3) Metrology to inspect the layer,
4) Photoresist mask spin-on and bake,
5) Lithography to form initial openings,
6) Treatment to shrink the opening,
7) Metrology to inspect the photoresist,
8) Etch of the dielectric through the mask,
9) Strip/Ash the remaining photoresist,
10) Clean/Treat the dielectric openings,
11) Metrology to inspect openings,
12) Deposit metal barrier layer,
13) Deposit metal for contact,
14) CMP of metal layers, and
15) Metrology to inspect contacts.

Each of these steps has sub-steps too.

In the past, major developments could be described and documented at the integrated process module level, allowing much of the unit process details to be IP secrets. The amazing innovation that enabled digital CMOS shrinks is now pushing against limits of atoms and wavelengths of light, and it now seems clear that further pushes will be ever more expensive. Fabs will also work to integrate analog, RF circuitry, integrated passives, and 3D packages using essentially the same unit processes. “It’s no longer Moore’s Law one-size-fits-all with all the focus on the next generation technology,” explained Caulfield.

Since the integrated process details are now quite sensitive, technologists are relatively more able to talk about developments in unit processes. From an equipment supplier perspective, of course, unit process development does not occur in isolation. “You develop a process capability because you have an application and market in mind,” explains Caulfield. “It’s not that we don’t keep doing that, but today we find customers using the same unit processes in novel ways.”

EDN’s Ron Wilson recently blogged about the IITC call-for-papers and the ramifications of unit process development for IC designers. He considers that porting a physical design from one fab to another may soon require significant inputs from equipment manufacturers, but it is highly unlikely that designers will ever have to talk to OEMs about GDSII files. Using the example of the contact module, the variations in the geometry of the metal contact plug are due to the interdependencies between the different unit processes. Sometimes the source of a structural variation can be easily identified as one unit process, but more often it is impossible to separate out which of the unit processes were to blame. If the diameter of the contact is too large, was the resist overexposed, or was the dielectric overetched?

In addition to the complexity that can be seen in final device structures on the atomic-scale, there are many sacrificial thin-film layers and other “hidden” unit processes within the integrated flow. “It’s funny to watch people debate how something was done based on the data from reverse engineering a final chip,” commented Caulfield. “There’s just no way to conclusively determine the process sequence afterwards with so many sacrificial steps in the integration scheme.”

For example, Novellus sells a pseudo-ALD dielectric tool that forms what they call a pulsed-deposition layer (PDL). Some DRAM fabs use a sacrificial dielectric which they remove with a wet etch, and for this integration scheme the PDL provides no advantage. However, other DRAM fabs use CMP to remove the equivalent sacrificial dielectric, and for them the PDL provides an advantage. The reasons for choosing one integration approach over another are very complex. “People are leveraging unit processes in different ways to try to get the best results while going to higher density,” explained Caulfield. “Productivity or manufacturability differentiation through proprietary integration schemes is the goal—and there are many ways to skin the cat—that provides competitive advantage.”

OEMs have always sold tools that perform basic unit processes, and fabs have always fine-tuned unit processes for integration into modules. The only fundamental change now is that fabs must manage extreme complexity at the same time that most chips have become commodities. “It’s a big problem that the industry is adding manufacturing complexity at the same time that chips are becoming commoditized,” expressed Caulfield. “If you’re not on a curve to take cost out of running a manufacturing tool, then you’ll become the problem that gets worked out of the equation next.”


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070608: IITC2007 airgaps & chip-stacks
Ed’s Threads 070608
Musings by Ed Korczynski on June 08, 2007

IITC 2007: Airgaps & chip-stacks
Airgaps and 3D-stacks were the big news from the 10th International Interconnect Technology Conference (IITC) recently held near the San Francisco airport. Two major new materials was presented—IBM showed rhodium (Rh) electro-chemical deposition (ECD) for ≤32nm contact plugs, and Fujitsu showed nano-clustered silicon (NCS) with low k=2.25 for a dielectric—but most new work involves the same materials combined in clever new ways. Airgap technology was covered in four oral presentations, three posters, and countless informal hallway discussions.

Dan Edelstein, IBM Fellow and manager of BEOL technology strategy at Yorktown Heights, NY, gave an invited talk on the many integration challenges for 32nm node interconnects, including resist poisoning from low-k outgassing, low-k damage removal, and the need for improved thin-film interfaces. “We need to keep adding innovation just to stay on the trend-line,” he commented. For example, the industry has historically seen chronically low SiCOH low-k adhesion on SiCHN barrier layers—regardless of equipment, CVD precursor, or plasma preclean—due to a carbon-rich initial deposition. Adding a diverter-valve to the tool allows for stabilized precursor flow before RF power is turned on, which eliminates the carbon-rich deposition and thus solves the adhesion issue. With subtle integration challenges such as these, IBM has chosen to add airgaps as a side-loop with no new materials, tools, or baseline processes. Airgaps drop k by ~35% for any given dielectric material, Edelstein noted, adding that IBM has “shown this on gapped SiOF and low-k SiCOH, and will do it next on ULK porous SiCOH.”

The IBM airgap process both removes and re-deposits some dielectric material, while most airgap approaches for logic chips rely on removal processes alone. The Crolles2Alliance (CEA-Leti, Freescale, NXP, and ST) uses SiO2 at line-levels and a polymer for the via-levels within the dielectric stack, then HF vapor or wet-etch-chemistries to remove the SiO2. NXP and Dow Chemical showed removal of a thermally degradable polymer (TDP) through a CVD SiOC cap layer to make ~30% airgaps at M2 as part of a keff ~2.5 to hit 32nm node specs.

The Crolles2Alliance also showed some of the integration tricks needed to use porous ULK dielectrics at the 32nm node. Different plasmas may seal pore surfaces to provide barrier properties for long-term reliability: CH4 adds C, NH3 substitutes N for C leading toward SiON compositions, and He/H2 plasmas retain near original stoichiometry. Though Cu bulk resistivity is only ~2.2 µOhm-cm, for 60nm line widths it is ~2.9 and increases with reducing widths. CMOS32 uses 50nm Cu line widths for M1, requiring a self-aligned barrier (SAB) <4nm for EM performance, an ALD barrier and thin-Cu seed for filling, and either a CuSiN or CoWP cap layer.

NEC research labs showed that direct ECD of Cu without a Cu-seed layer provides larger grain size and higher Cu(111) orientation. Damascene structures were first sealed with TiN, then either Ta/Cu or Ru layers were deposited. The TiN barrier layer is definitely needed beneath Ru to block Cu diffusion into the dielectric. Ru PVD using DC magnetron sputtering with Ar gas at room temperature produces high orientation of Ru(002). Since Ru(002) is hexagonal-close-packed, it matches well with the preferred Cu(111) face-centered-cubic orientation such that 40%-50% can be grown directly on Ru in dual-damascene structures. Some day, metal line specifications may include not just dimensions and resistivity, but grain orientation and size-distribution too.

Ibaraki U. and Hitachi presented research showing that higher chemical purity leads to lower resistivity in Cu lines. Increasing both the Cu anode purity from 4N to 9N along with the CuSO4·5H2O purity from 3N to 6N reduced line resistance by 21% in 50nm wide lines, with all other process parameters held constant. The high-purity process increased the average grain size from 70 to 74nm, and significantly reduced the oxygen content in the final annealed Cu lines to <1 wt% from the previous 3-4 wt%.

Based on first principles of thermodynamics, an alloy of Cu/Mn can be annealed to result in self-segregation of Mn to the dielectric/Cu barrier. One fundamental advantage of this process is that no barrier is formed at the bottoms of vias, which minimizes resistance. Toshiba’s R&D; group tested self-aligned Mn barriers with 244-via-chain structures and found one-third the resistance compared to Cu vias using the standard Ta barrier.

Georgia Tech and U. of New Mexico researchers showed that a 60% increase in the total number of wire levels is sufficient to account for ~5x increase in the resistivity of wires. Careful routing and a logical hierarchy seem to go a long way, but eventually the industry must get serious about 3D ICs using chip-stacks.

Patrick Leduc of CEA-Leti provided an overview of the main challenges to realizing high density 3D ICs: bonding with ±1µm alignment at T<400°C, Si thinning to <15µm, and through-silicon via (TSV) diameters <3µm. Thermal management issues may not be too difficult—assuming each transistor contributes 0.7W to a 50 W/cm2 average—since bulk silicon acts as an efficient heat spreader and the metal lines conduct well.

Freescale’s Scott Pozder explained that EDA software tools may be the current biggest limitation to 3D integration, since standard tools cannot even account for metal levels on multiple chips. If you explicitly design for 3D, then models show that multiplicative yield-losses can be avoided or eliminated.

There were ~480 conference attendees this year (plus several hundred additional folks running evening supplier-seminars and exhibit booths). Among the attendees with whom I enjoyed discussions were (in alphabetical order) Al Bergendahl, Chris Case, Paul Feeney, Terry Francis, Mike Fury, Xiao Hu Liu, Steven Luce, Satya Nitta, Mike Shapiro, and a special appearance by casually retired Mike Thomas.


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Ed's Threads is the weekly web-log of SST Sr. Technical Editor Ed Korczynski's musings on the topics of semiconductor manufacturing technology and business. Ed received a degree in materials science and engineering from MIT in 1984, and after process development and integration work in fabs, he held applications, marketing, and business development roles at OEMs. Ed won editorial awards from ASBPE, including interviews with Gordon Moore and Jim Morgan, and is not lacking for opinions.