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Semiconductor Fabrication Lecture Notes

Semiconductor Fabrication Lecture Notes

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Semiconductor Fabrication

The process used in the creation of chips, the integrated circuits that we see being used in everyday electrical and electronic devices. It involves a sequence of photographic and chemical processing steps dealing with a piece of pure semiconducting material, called a wafer, upon which electronic circuits are gradually created on. The most commonly used semiconductor, silicon, is fabricated this way, as is other special application materials such as gallium arsenide, germanium, and many others. Silicon The outer crust of this planet (the first 100 km or so) consists of all kinds of silicates (Si + O + something else) so there is no lack of Si as a raw material. Si, in fact, accounts for about 26 % of the crust, while O weighs in at about 49 %. What we need, of course, are Si crystals - in the form of wafers - with extreme degrees of perfection. What we have are inexhaustible resources of silicon dioxide, SiO2, fairly clean, if obtained from the right source. Raw silicon is obtained through the reduction of the oxides by providing some reducing agent and sufficient energy to achieve the necessary high temperatures. Essentially, you have a huge furnace with three big graphite electrodes carrying 10A of current inside that is continuously filled with SiO2 (quartz sand) and carbon (coal) in the right weight relation plus a few added secret ingredients to avoid producing SiC. At about 2000°C the chemical reaction that takes place is:

SiO2 + 2C = Si + 2CO

Raw Silicon Reactor

Wafers Fabrication starts with the creation of wafers. In microelectronics, it is a thin slice of semiconducting material, such as a silicon crystal, upon which microcircuits are constructed by doping (for example, diffusion or ion implantation), etching, and deposition of various materials. Wafers are thus of key importance in the fabrication of semiconductor devices such as integrated circuits. They are made in various sizes ranging from 1 inch (25.4 mm) to 11.8 inches (300 mm), and thickness of the order of 0.5 mm. Generally, using a diamond saw they are cut from a boule of semiconductor made through the Czochralski process, then polished on one or both faces.

Silicon Boule

Czochralski process

Wafer Polishing Wafers under 200mm generally have flats indicating crystallographic planes of high symmetry (usually the {110} face) and, in old-fashioned wafers (those below about 100mm diameter), the wafer's orientation and doping type. Modern wafers use a notch to convey this information, in order to waste less material.

Wafer Flats Convention Orientation is important since many of a single crystal's structural and electronic properties are highly anisotropic. For instance, wafer cleavage typically occurs only in a few well-defined directions. Scoring the wafer along cleavage planes allows it to be easily diced into individual chips ("dies") so that the billions of individual circuit elements on an average wafer can be separated into many individual circuits.

Etched Silicon Wafer

Structure of a 150mm wafer of 16Mb DRAM chips

Processing Once the wafers are prepared, many process steps are necessary to produce the desired semiconductor integrated circuit. In general the steps can be grouped into four areas; front end processing, back end processing, testing and packaging. Front End Processing refers to the most crucial steps in the fabrication. In this stage the actual devices, including transistors and resistors are created. A typical front end process includes the following: preparation of the wafer surface, growth of silicon dioxide (SiO2), patterning and subsequent implantation or diffusion of dopants to obtain the desired electrical properties, growth or deposition of a gate dielectric, and growth or deposition of insulating materials to isolate neighboring devices. Once the various semiconductor devices have been created they must be interconnected to form the desired electrical circuits. This "Back End Processing" involves depositing layers of metal and insulating material and etching it into the desired patterns. Typically the metal layers consist of aluminum or more recently copper. The insulating material was traditionally a form of SiO2 or a silicate glass, but recently new low dielectric constant materials are being used. The various metal layers are interconnected by etching holes, called "vias" in the insulating material and depositing tungsten in them. Once the Back End Processing has been completed, the semiconductor devices are subjected to a variety of electrical tests to determine if they function properly. Finally, the wafer is cut into individual dice, which are then packaged in ceramic or plastic packages with pins or other connectors to the outside world. The packaged chips are then retested to ensure that they were not damaged during packaging and that the die-to-pin interconnect operation was performed correctly.

Steps in Fabrication
I. Wafer fabrication 1. Wet Cleans - non-toxic, environmentally safe dry-cleaning alternative utilizing computer controlled washing machines, biodegradeable soaps and conditioners, and specialized finishing (pressing) equipment suitable for virtually all fabric/fiber types. 2. Photolithography - a process used to transfer a pattern from a photomask (also called reticle) to the surface of a substrate. It involves a combination of substrate preparation, chemical deposition, photoresist spinning, soft-baking, exposure, developing, hard-baking, and etching.

Photolithography structure model 3. Ion implantation - process by which ions of a material can be implanted into another solid, thereby changing the physical properties of the solid. The ions introduce both a chemical change in the target, in that they can be a different element than the target, and a structural change, in that the crystal structure of the target can be damaged or even destroyed. This process is commonly used to embed dopants in the wafer creating regions of increased (or decreased) conductivity. 4. Dry Etching - the removal of material, typically a masked pattern of semiconductor material, by exposing the material to a bombardment of ions that dislodge portions of the material from the exposed surface. The process typically etches directionally or anisotropically. Also known as plasma etching. 5. Wet Etching - the removal of material by immersing the wafer in a liquid bath of chemical etchant. Also known as chemical etching. There are two kinds of wet etching etchants:

A) Isotropic etchants attack the material being etched at the same rate in all directions.

Isotropic Etching B) Anisotropic etchants attack the silicon wafer at different rates in different directions. On wafers the most used etchant is KOH. Anisotropic etching does not cause undercutting, and is preferred in applications where straight side walls are essential. 6. Plasma ashing - the process of removing the photoresist from an etched wafer. Using a plasma source, a monatomic reactive specie is generated. Oxygen and fluorine are the most common reactive specie. The reactive specie combines with the photoresist to form ash, which is removed with a vacuum pump. 7. Thermal treatments - heating of wafers in order to affect its electrical properties. Unique heat treatments are designed for different effects. Wafers can be heated in order to activate dopants, change film to film or film to wafer substrate interfaces, densify deposited films, change states of grown films, repair damage from ion implantation, move dopants or drive dopants from one film into another or from a film into the wafer substrate. It can be done by: A) Rapid thermal anneal - performed by equipment that heats a single wafer at a time using either lamp based heating, a hot chuck, or a hot plate that a wafer is brought near. They are short in duration, processing each wafer in several minutes. B) Furnace anneals - performed by equipment especially built to heat semiconductor wafers. Furnaces are capable of processing lots of wafers at a time but each process can last between several hours and a day. 8. Chemical vapor deposition (CVD) - process for depositing thin films of various materials by chemical means. In a typical CVD process the substrate is exposed to one or more volatile precursors, which react and/or decompose on the substrate surface to produce the desired deposit. Frequently, volatile byproducts are also produced, which are removed by gas flow through the reaction chamber.

9. Physical vapor deposition (PVD) - process for depositing thin films of various materials by mechanical or thermodynamic means. The material to be deposited is placed in a heated environment, so that particles of material escape its surface. Facing this source is a cooler surface that draws energy from these particles as they arrive, allowing them to form a solid layer. The whole system is kept in a vacuum deposition chamber, to allow the particles to travel as freely as possible. Since particles tend to follow a straight path, films deposited by physical means are commonly directional, rather than conformal. A) Thermal evaporator - uses an electric resistance heater to melt the material and eventually evaporate, and the vapor will reach the substrate to be deposited as a solid. Only materials with a much higher vapor pressure than the heating element can be deposited without contamination of the film. B) Electron beam evaporator - fires a high-energy beam from an electron gun to boil a small spot of material; since the heating is not uniform, lower vapor pressure materials can be deposited. C) Sputtering - relies on a plasma (usually a noble gas, such as Argon) to knock material from a "target" a few atoms at a time. The sputtered atoms are ejected into the gas phase and are not in their thermodynamic equilibrium state. Therefore, they tend to condense back into the solid phase upon colliding with any surface in the sputtering chamber.

Sputter chamber D) Pulsed laser deposition – uses pulses of focused laser light to transform the target material directly from solid to plasma; this plasma usually reverts to a gas before it reaches the substrate but sufficiently high vacuum will allow momentum to carry this gas to the substrate, where it condenses to a solid state. 10. Molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) - the deposition of one or more pure materials onto a single crystal wafer, one layer of atoms at a time, under ultra-high vacuum, forming a perfect crystal. In solid-source MBE, ultra-pure elements are heated in

separate furnaces until they each slowly begin to evaporate. The evaporated elements condense on the wafer, where they react with each other to form a crystal. The term "beam" simply means that evaporated atoms do not meet each other or any other gases until they reach the wafer. 11. Electroplating - the coating of an electrically conductive item with a layer of metal using electrical current. The result is a thin, smooth, even coat of metal on the object. 12. Chemical mechanical polish / planarization (CMP) – used to planarizing the top surface of the substrate. The process is used to polish the surface, removing excess material and even out any irregular topography. 13. Wafer testing - performed before a wafer is sent to die preparation, all individual integrated circuits that are present on the wafer are tested for functional defects by applying special test patterns to them. The wafer testing is performed by a piece of test equipment called a prober, and the process is sometimes referred to as a probe test or wafer sort. 14. Wafer backgrinding - a polishing technique applied on the bottom of the wafer used to reduce the thickness of the wafer so the resulting chip can be put into a thin device like a smart card or PCMCIA card. II. Die preparation 1. Wafer mounting - during this step, the wafer is mounted on a plastic tape that is attached to a ring. Wafer mounting is performed right before the wafer is cut into separate dies. The adhesive tape on which the wafer is mounted ensures that the individual dies remain firmly in place during 'dicing'.

Wafer glued on blue tape and cut into pieces 2. Die cutting - the individual dies contained in the wafer are cut into separate pieces. In between the functional parts of the circuits, a thin non-functional spacing is foreseen where a saw can safely cut the wafer without damaging the circuit. This spacing is called the scribe. The width of the scribe is very small, typically around 100 Jm. A very thin and accurate saw is therefore needed to cut

the wafer into pieces. Usually the dicing is performed with a water-cooled circular saw with diamond-tipped teeth. III. IC packaging 1. Die attachment - process upon which a die is mounted and fixed to the package or support structure. For high-powered applications, the die is usually soldered onto the package (for good heat conduction). For low-cost, low-powered applications, the die is often glued directly onto a substrate (such as a printed wiring board) using an epoxy adhesive.

Die attachment 2. IC Bonding - process of making interconnections between a microchip and the outside world. A) Wire bonding – makes use of wires for the interconnections. The wire is generally made up of one of the following: gold, aluminum and copper. Wire diameters start at 15Jm and can be up to several hundred micrometers for high-powered applications, and are attached at both ends using some combination of heat, pressure, and ultrasonic energy to make a weld. Wire bonding is generally considered the most cost-effective and flexible interconnect technology, and is used to assemble the vast majority of semiconductor packages. B) Flip chip – a processing step that deposits solder beads on the chip pads. After cutting the wafer into individual dice, the "flip chip" is then mounted upside down in/on the package and the solder reflowed. Flip chips then normally will undergo an underfill process that will cover the sides of the die, similar to the encapsulation process. Also known as the Controlled Collapse Chip Connection, or C4.

Ceramic Land Grid Array and Ceramic Ball Grid Array Flip Chips C) Tape automated bonding (TAB) - the process of mounting a die on a flexible tape made of polymer material, such as polyimide. The mounting is done such

that the bonding sites of the die, usually in the form of bumps or balls made of gold or solder, are connected to fine conductors on the tape, which provide the means of connecting the die to the package or directly to external circuits. Sometimes the tape on which the die is bonded already contains the actual application circuit of the die.

Tape automated bonding 3. IC encapsulation - the design and manufacturing of protective packages for the completed IC. IV. IC testing - the finished product undergoes a final testing procedure to check for functionality before shipping.

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