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Process Optimizations to Improve Magnetic Tunnel Junction Performance

Robert Parker, Kin Wong, Qi Hu, Farbod Ebrahimi, Pedram Khalili, Kang L. Wang

Motivatio

Magnetic Tunnel Junctions show promise for use in next
n generation memory storage (MRAM).

Integration requires a fabrication process that produces
devices of reliable quality as well as thermal stability up to
at least 400°C.
Common Tantalum-seeded tunnel junctions cannot
maintain Perpendicular Magnetic Anisotropy (PMA) and
Tunnel Magneto-Resistance (TMR) above 300°C.

Background

RAP
TMR = 127%

No
10s
Treatment Oxygen
Treatment
95%
95%
96%
115%

Yield
Average
TMR
Standard
33%
Dev. of TMR
Standard
500 Ohm
Dev. of RP

11%

31%

214
Ohm

278 Ohm

Max TMR

121%

127%

155%

RP



Approach

Fabrication
Process

Photoresist

MTJ Film


During etching process, etched
materials, usually conductors,
may attach to exposed side of
pillar.
These materials serve as a path
for electrons to bypass MgO.
This reduces device yield,
resistance, and TMR
Oxygen plasma reacts with
metals on the pillar, “cleaning”
the sides before SiO2 deposition,
improving yield and device
quality.

(II) Annealing Temperature
• Optimal annealing
Results temperature is 450C
Temperature Dependence of TMR

100

Metal
Deposition

Photolithograph
y

Used to determine the
etching rate

Pillar Etching

• Improvement in
Co/Fe/B-MgO
interface
M • For Mo, device shows
o
no significant TMR at
500C

80

Photoresis
t

Photolithograph
y

60

Max TMR (%)

Preliminary

40

Etching
SiO2 Deposition

• 10s Treatment:
Tightest
distribution
• No Treatment:
Worst
Distribution,
most outliers

Effects of Oxygen
Treatment

Free Layer Switches
Magnetization States

High, consistent TMR allows for use as a 0 or a 1 bit in MRAM
Consistent resistance reduces the chance of a memory read error
Applied magnetic field changes the magnetization of the free
layer and resistance of the junction
A sharp change in resistances (RP and RAP) indicates a switch in

magnetization state

The percent increase of resistance is known as Tunnel MagnetoResistance (TMR)
I fabricated the following two sets of devices in UCLA clean room:
I. Tantalum-seeded devices with varying oxygen plasma
treatment, intended to produce more consistent distribution
of device TMR
II. Devices with Molybdenum or Tungsten as seed materials,
the TMR of which will be tested after annealing at various
temperatures
Au/Cr

20s
Oxygen
Treatment
95%
108%

SiO2

20

Photolithograph
y

SiO2 Etching

0
250

300

350

Au/Cr

400

450

500

550

Temperature (°C)

Annealing (for
Mo and W
devices)

Metal
Deposition
700

(I) Results of Oxygen
Treatment
TMR Distributions

Temperature Dependance of Switching Field

• Weaker switching
field indicates
weaker
perpendicular
anisotropy
Damaged
CoFeB
Mo• Fixed
Layer
W Freelayer
Layer

600

500

400

Magnetic Field (Oe)
300

160

No Treatment,
Rp
20s Oxygen, Rp

140

120

200

100

0
250

300

350

400

450

500

550

W Fixed Layer
Mo Free Layer

Temperature (°C)

100

Summary

80
TMR (%)
60

40

20

0
0

500

1000

1500

2000

2500

Resistance (Ohms)

RP and RAP Overlap

No Treatment


10s Oxygen

• If RP and RAP
overlap, one
cannot
distinguish
between a 0 or
1 bit
• Much less
overlap with
oxygen
treatment

Oxygen plasma treatment during pillar etching
lowers variance in device TMR and resistance
distribution
Over-oxidizing, however, can occur
450C is the optimal temperature to anneal Moand W- seeded tunnel junctions to maximize
TMR

Future
Work

Test the read error of the tunnel junctions

to quantify the improvement caused by
oxygen treatment
Find the Voltage Controlled Magnetic
Anisotropy (VCMA) coefficient of these
devices at 450C annealing
Find other materials with suitable TMR and