Monolithic 3DIC: Overcoming silicon defects

By Brian Cronquist, VP Technology & IP, MonolithIC 3D Inc.

As dimensional scaling has reached the diminishing return era there is a buildup of interest in monolithic 3D as an alternative path forward. Both memory and logic vendors are moving to monolithic 3D. The memory vendors are in transition to 3D NAND and Samsung has already announced mass production of their V-NAND. BeSang has been working in monolithic 3D memory for many years and has recently signed a license agreement with SK Hynix. And now, in the logic arena, Qualcomm has voiced a call for monolithic 3D “to extend the semiconductor roadmap way beyond the 2D scaling.” The reason is economic: … “although we are still scaling down, it’s not cost-economic anymore” (Karim Arabi, DAC 2014).

A key aspect of monolithic 3D is engineering the second layer to be especially thin, on the order of 100nm or less. This provides for tiny (10s of nm diameter) vertical connections which are dense, manufacturable, and stress-free.  They can be manufactured with well understood processing as these vertical connections would look very much like the metal to metal vias that the industry has been making for decades. This avoids the 10+ micron sized TSVs of parallel 3D and their associated reliability hazards, process cost, Keep Out Zones, and ‘newness risk’.

When performance is important, single crystal silicon based transistors are the way to go for stacked layers. So far, it seems that the best technique to form such thin mono-crystal layers with the required thickness control is to use the volume production and well proven ion-cut process. Many of the high performance monolithic 3D process flows utilize ion-cut techniques, sometimes called ‘Smart-Cut’.

However, use of ion-cut creates a small number of crystal defects in the very thin single crystal layer-transferred film. I’ll talk about some techniques that may be employed to solve this but, first, let’s explore why defects are created in the ion-cut process.

The high dosage of ions used in the process creates damage to the silicon lattice at, and near, the ion-stopping depth, such that the lattice becomes brittle there; hence, can be ‘cut’ or ‘exfoliated’ with a force (e.g., knife, water jet) or thermal anneal. After separation of the layer to be transferred from the donor substrate, this ‘donor layer’ will still have some of the silicon lattice damage from the embrittlement on one surface, and may also have some damage from the splitting process itself. Soitec, in the manufacture of SOI wafers, utilizes 1100-1200°C thermal anneals (both oxidizing and non-oxidizing) in combination with chemical-mechanical polishing (CMP) to repair the crystalline damage, as part of its SmartCut (ion-cut) process. However, these damage repair anneals are not compatible with the commonly used low melting point/hi-diffusivity interconnect metals like copper or aluminum of the lower device layer in a 3D stack. BeSang has a nice tutorial video explaining this on their website. Here’s a snapshot:

Fig 1

Further, the passage of the ions used in the ion-cut process creates a lower level of damage to the silicon lattice of the bulk of the to-be-transferred donor layer as the ions pass thru the lattice. This bulk lattice damage can cause junction leakage, and lower the performance of devices. Annealing this type of lattice damage requires temperatures of about 600°C or greater, which – again – is incompatible with the commonly used interconnect metals of the lower device layers in a 3D stack.

Now let’s look at two silicon device proven methods that are available to overcome the ion-cut induced defects and can be applied to the ion-cut layer transfer for monolithic 3D devices and  structures.

Radu et al. of Soitec, in U.S. Patent Application Publication 2013/0026663, describe a method for curing defects associated with ion-cut implantation by a CMP and then a laser anneal of the transferred singe crystal silicon layer.

Singe crystal silicon donor wafer 1 is ion-implanted with a heavy dose of hydrogen or helium ions to create a brittle region 11 as shown in Fig. 1A. Then the donor wafer is flipped over and bonded to the top of a receiver substrate 2 that may have transistors and interconnect metallization 20, shown in Fig. 1B. Layer 3 is a low thermal conductivity or thermal insulating layer that will help thermally protect the transistors and interconnect metallization 20 of substrate 2.

Fig 2

Fracturing along the brittle region 11 may be done with any number of techniques, such as mechanical knife, water or gas jet, etc., leaving behind transferred silicon layer 10. The transferred layer surface 12 may be CMP’d to remove the majority of the roughness and surface defects, resulting in Fig. 1C.

Fig 3

However, there are still bulk lattice damage centers in transferred silicon layer 10. Radu et al. takes care of them thermally by applying pulses of electromagnetic energy. Specifically mentioned are the pulsed lasers of Excico and JPSA.

Fig 4

The wavelength of the irradiation is chosen such that the majority of the pulsed energy is absorbed in transferred layer 10. The low thermal conductivity or thermal insulating layer 3 minimizes the thermal diffusion from the heated transferred layer 10 to the interconnect metallization and must be designed properly to handle the thermal pulse of the layer above. Temperatures high enough to cure the ion-cut induced defects and reactivate any ion-cut deactivated dopants in transferred layer 10 can be achieved. For example, as Figs. 5A and B show, the transferred thin (0.8um in this case) silicon layer (a) may achieve a temperature well above 1000°C from the laser pulse, and the interface (b) between substrate 2 and thermal insulating layer 3 will stay well below 400°C.

Fig 5

Fig. 5A shows the JPSA laser at 193nm and 20ns pulse FWHM (Full-Width Half-Max) and Fig. 5B shows the Excico laser at 308nm and 160ns pulse FWHM.

We have also published work on laser annealing at 2013 IEEE 3DIC and 2013 IEEE S3S Conferences showing how scaling trends can make monolithic 3D practical and the substantial design space of the laser wavelength/energy/pulse width, top layer thickness, and shielding/thermal protection layers which can make single crystal monolithic 3D possible.

Clearly, stacking of ultra-thin layers of defect free single crystal silicon can be readily accomplished and the tools to realize this are available from at least two vendors.

At ESSDERC (43rd Solid State Device Research Conference) in September of 2013, Radu et al. in collaboration with CEA-Leti, presented a different way of obtaining low defect single crystal silicon stacks. Low temperature Solid Phase Epitaxial Re-grow (SPER) is combined with ion-cut to demonstrate defect free diodes with processing temperatures less than 500°C.

SPER utilizes a small amount of crystalline silicon as a template to re-crystallize an amorphous silicon layer at temperatures just above 475°C and can be used to activate dopants above the solubility limit.

Fig 6

SPER can be combined with low temperature ion-cut (SmartCut) and bonding techniques to obtain defect free single crystal devices. Donor wafer doped silicon is amorphized before bonding and ion-cut implanted to create the brittle zone, flipped and bonded to the handle, SPER processed, and then thinned to remove the End Of Range defects.

Fig 7

No crystalline defects were seen utilizing the usual physical means:

Fig 8

However, the tougher test to satisfy is always the electrical one. Radu showed excellent diode characteristics, resistivity, concentration and mobility recovery. Here are some of their diode I(V) curves:

Fig 9

I would not be surprised if demonstration of transistors is published in the near future.

So, hopefully I have given you at taste of how ready an important piece of the monolithic 3D puzzle is to delivering on its promises. Back in December 2013, Soitec and CEA-Leti renewed their long-standing partnership for five additional years. I think it is safe to say that more will be coming soon.

Give me a call or email if you want to talk more…


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