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MEMS TECHNOLOGY /!"/go#$man.


Eva#%ating the %&e o' har$(ma&) 'i#m& $%ring *%#) &i#icon etching
Ken Goldman, K. Sooriakumar, Cindy Ray, and Mark Schade, Motorola Bulk-micromachined silicon pressure sensors typically consist of a diaphragm that deflects when su !ected to a pressure load, a oron-implanted pie"oresisti#e transducer that translates strain to a differential #oltage, and metal pads that are used to interface with other system components. Signal-conditioning circuitry for cali ration or amplification is optional, ut is often included as well. $he pie"oresisti#e transducer is strategically placed near the edge of the diaphragm, since that is a high-strain lo-cation, and each sensor is designed such that its output #oltage is linearly proportional to the applied pressure in its operating range.%,& 'igure % shows perspecti#e cross-sectional #iews of a typical ulk-micromachined sensor. Figure 1: Perspective view of a typical bulk-micromachined pressure sensor (a) and its cross section (b) Figure !: "chematics of the cavities-last process (a) and cavities-middle process (b)

(uring sensor fa rication the diaphragm is formed either prior to or following metalli"ation. Known as the ca#ities-middle and ca#ities-last processes, respecti#ely, these alternati#es are illustrated in 'igure &. Because the silicon wafer ecomes fragile after ca#ity etch, the ca#ities-last process is prefera le from a manufacturing standpoint. Ca#ities-last etching also lends itself #ery well to etch-stop technology for diaphragm thickness control. )owe#er, the frontside of the wafer has to e protected during the etching process to pre#ent metal interconnects and ond pads from eing etched. (eposition of a hard-mask film is one method of shielding frontside metalli"ation from the corrosi#e etchant. Because e*posure to high temperatures must e limited following metalli"ation, +,C-( silicon nitride or thermal o*ide .Si/&0 cannot e used for this purpose1 either films that can e deposited at low temperatures or spin-on coatings are re2uired. $he study presented here in#estigated the use of two such films 3 +,C-( silane- ased silicon o*ide and ,4C-( silicon nitride 3 as metalli"ation o#ercoats. $hese materials are deposited using the following chemical reactions, respecti#ely. 5

E+perimenta# Set%p $he structure of the silicon wafers used for this study, shown in 'igure 5, represents the frontside topography of a typical pressure sensor. 6fter a thermal o*ide was grown, aluminum was sputtered and patterned on the wafer surface. 7sing ,4C-(, a passi#ation layer of nitride was then deposited and patterned o#er the ond pads. +astly, silane- ased silicon o*ide and silicon nitride were deposited #ia +,C-( and ,4C-(, respecti#ely. Figure #: $evice structure used for the $%& study $he design of e*periments .(/40 techni2ue was used to set up a simple && factorial screening e*periment to determine the effecti#eness of the hard-mask films for frontside metal protection during ca#ity etch. $he independent #aria les were +,C-( o*ide thickness .%8 and 58 k90 and ,4C-( nitride thickness .8 and : k90, while the response was ca#ity etch process yield. $he film thicknesses were chosen ased on e*isting design rules, topography, and manufacturing processes. Because of its high selecti#ity to dielectrics, tetramethylammonium hydro*ide .$M6)0 was chosen as the ca#ity etchant. ;t has een reported that y controlling the p) of the etchant solution, the $M6) etch rate of aluminum can e controlled to the point where it ecomes insignificant.: Control of the p) is typically accomplished y either dissol#ing silicon in the solution or adding acid to it prior to etching. $he hard-mask scheme eing e#aluated was intended for use as a protection arrier in con!unction with p)-controlled $M6). (uring the testing the etch process was conducted at a temperature of <=>C in a

&= wt? $M6) solution for #arious lengths of time .583:@8 minutes0 and the solution was not p) controlled. Ao ca#ities were actually formed since a diaphragm on the wafer was not re2uired to determine the effects of the etch on the frontside metal. ;t was also assumed that any change in $M6) p) that might e caused y dissol#ed silicon would not affect the outcome of the e*periment.: $he wafers e*posed to $M6) were e*amined for damage using scanning electron microscopy .S4M0. -arying the etch time created an additional independent #aria le, gi#ing the e*periment a & * & * A design, where A is the num er of le#els of time. )owe#er, the length of time to completely etch such ca#ities is essentially constant 3 appro*imately @ hours for a %=mil-thick su strate under the conditions descri ed a o#e. $he purpose of #arying the time increments was simply to determine the time to failure for the hard mask, as will e e*plained elow. ,e&%#t& an$ -i&c%&&ion Bhen the first set of test wafers were etched in the &= wt? $M6) solution at <=>C for @ hours, the typical ca#ity etch time, the result was catastrophicC no good die were found on any of the wafers. ;n other words, all (/4 cells e*hi ited "ero yield. S4M micrographs indicated that the primary failure mechanism was lifting and cracking of the hard-mask films, which permitted etching of the metal pads underneath .see 'igure :0. ;n theory, this metal etching should not ha#e occurred ecause the metal was co#ered y dielectric films with high selecti#ities in $M6). )owe#er, holes such as that #isi le in the figure allowed $M6) to reach the metal. $raditionally, the primary failure mechanism for ca#ity etch has een etch pits in the su strate, ut etch pits, which are commonly caused y defects in the silicon su strate such as scratches and particles, were not o ser#ed on the test wafers. $he implication is that the lower thermal o*ide layer protected the su strate e#en though the hard mask failed. .$his result was e*pected since the $M6) etch rate of thermal o*ide is D%8 9Emin.0 Figure ': "&M micrographs of a failure site after (M)* etch at two different magnifications

6 second set of replicate wafers, which had een inspected and found to e free of holes, were used to determine the rate at which the failure mechanism of random hole formation occurs. $he wafers were immersed in $M6) for 58 minutes and were then e*amined under a microscope. $his #isual inspection indicated that holes in the mask were already a undant after the 58-minute etch. Se#eral failure spots were then cross-sectioned using a focused ion eam .';B0 and e*amined #ia S4M. 6s seen in 'igure =, the $M6) had egun etching the metal e*posed y the holes in the hard mask. 'urther etching of the metal resulted in a freestanding layer of hard-mask film .inad#ertent surface

micromachining0, which could crack and reak during spin-rinse drying, like the wafer shown in 'igure :. Figure +: "&M micrographs of an F,- cross section of a failure site at two different magnifications

Careful inspection indicated that some of the failure locations were more suscepti le to $M6) etching than others. 'igure F shows an S4M micrograph of an unetched spot where the hard-mask films are conforming to an underlying irregularity. $he micrograph re#eals that the film structure at this spot is much different than that in surrounding regions, implying that some type of residual contamination is present. $he residue was cross-sectioned using an ';B and was su se2uently e*amined #ia energy-dispersi#e *ray spectroscopy .4(S0. $he 4(S graph of the cross section, presented as 'igure G, indicates a strong presence of silicon and o*ygen, which was not surprising since one of the hard-mask films was silane- ased silicon o*ide. Figure .: "&M micrograph showing an unetched area where the hard mask is overcoating an embedded residual contaminant

Figure /: &$" graph of the residue shown in Figure . ;t is well known that the reaction etween Si): and e*cess o*ygen produces silicon o*ide particles that adhere to reactor walls as a white powder and may also contaminate wafer surfaces.= Closer e*amination of additional test wafers prior to $M6) etch re#ealed that particle contamination resem ling the residue seen in 'igure F was present throughout the wafers. Because em edded particles create weak regions in film, this particle contamination was assumed to e the root cause of the failures o ser#ed on oth sets of (/4 test wafers. ;n order to #erify the failure mechanism, a separate (/4 study was conducted using a ,4C-( tetraetho*ysilane- ased o*ide as the hard mask. ;n this e*periment, the aluminum pads were fully protected and no e#idence of failures were seen after $M6)

etch. $herefore, it was concluded that an o*ide hard mask is sufficient to withstand $M6) if the o*ide film does not contain em edded particle contamination. Conc#%&ion Bhen the (/4 techni2ue was used to e#aluate the use of deposited silane- ased silicon o*ide and silicon nitride as a hard mask for aluminum during silicon pressure sensor etching in $M6) solutions, all of the e*perimental cells had a process yield of "ero. 6fter S4M analyses and further in#estigation, the cause of the yield failure was attri uted to particle contamination created y the reaction of silane and e*cess o*ygen. ,lanari"ation techni2ues to reduce the re2uired protecti#e o*ide thicknesses, increased pre#enti#e maintenance .,M0 to pre#ent particle formation in the process cham er, and impro#ed S,C to optimi"e ,M scheduling will likely impro#e the yields for such a process, ut will not e a cure-all and will result in higher manufacturing costs. .c)now#e$gment& $he authors would like to thank the Motorola M4MS-% production fa team mem ers for their support and Bruce )uling for encouraging us to write this article. Be also would like to thank (emetre Kondylis and (an Ballace for supporting this pro!ect. ,e'erence& %. $ufte /A, Chapman ,B, and +ong (, HSilicon (iffused4lement ,ie"oresisti#e (iaphragms,H Iournal of 6pplied ,hysics, 55C55&&355&G, %<F&. &. Samaun S, Bise K, and 6ngell IB, H6n ;C ,ie"oresisti#e ,ressure Sensor for Biomedical ;nstrumentation,H ;444 $ransactions on Biomedical 4ngineering, BM4&8.&0C%8%3%8<, %<G5. 5. Ghandhi SK, -+S; 'a rication ,rinciples, Aew Jork, Biley, pp :&&3:&@, %<@5. :. $a ata /, Hp)-Controlled $M6) 4tchants for Silicon Micromachining,H presented to the @th ;nternational Conference on Solid-State Sensors and 6ctuators, Stockholm, Sweden, Iune %<<=. =. Bolf S, and $au er RA, Silicon ,rocessing for the -+S; 4ra, Sunset Beach, C6, +attice ,ress, pp %@53%@:, %<@F. /en Go#$man has een an electrical engineer in the micromachining de#elopment group for MotorolaKs sensor products di#ision in ,hoeni*, 6L, since %<<:. $he coauthor of four technical articles, he has fi#e patents pending. Goldman recei#ed his BS and MS degrees in electrical engineering and applied physics .%<<& and %<<:, respecti#ely0 from Case Bestern Reser#e 7ni#ersity, speciali"ing in micromachining. .Goldman can e reached at F8&E&::-:8@<1 e-mail, R,5&%GMemail.sps.mot.com0

/athirgama&%n$aram Sooria)%mar is a technical mem er of MotorolaKs sensor process de#elopment group, which he !oined in %<<5. )e pre#iously worked at 'ord Motor Co.Ks electronic di#ision and at 'ord Micro 4lectronics .'M;0 in Colorado Springs. (uring his career, Sooriakumar has code#eloped many sensor products, including silicon no""les for fuel in!ectors, capaciti#e and pie"oresisti#e pressure sensors for automoti#e and iomedical applications, and accelerometers for air ag applications. )e also has coauthored many technical papers and holds patents in the silicon micromachining field. )e recei#ed a BS in physics from the State 7ni#ersity of Aew Jork at Brockport in %<@F and an MS in electrical engineering and applied physics from Case Bestern Reser#e 7ni#ersity in %<@<. Cin$0 ,a0 is a process technician in MotorolaKs sensor process de#elopment group. Since !oining the company in %<@8 as a production operator she has worked in radiofre2uency test and assem ly, and in the "ener and ipolar fa s. She contri uted to de#eloping and transferring electrochemical etching processes for pressure sensors. Mar) Scha$e is senior staff scientist at MotorolaKs chemical and surface analysis la oratory in ,hoeni*, where his responsi ilities include speciali"ed material characteri"ation studies using scanning electron microscopy, 6uger electron spectroscopy, and atomic force microscopy. ,rior assignments ha#e included metallurgical characteri"ation studies and process engineeringEproduction line support duties. 6 mem er of 6SM ;nternational, the 6merican -acuum Society, the Microscopy Society of 6merica, and the Materials Research Society, Schade has pu lished more than %8 technical papers and was recently granted a Special ,atent 4ngineering 6ward. )e has a BS in chemical engineering .%<@&0 from Michigan State 7ni#ersity and an MS in materials science engineering .%<<=0 from 6ri"ona State 7ni#ersity.