Tag Archives: ALD

ASM’s Haukka ALD Award

Dr. Suvi Haukka, executive scientist at ASM International, located in Finland, was awarded the ALD Innovation prize at the ALD 2016 Ireland conference (Figure), as chosen by the conference chairs. Haukka has had a lifetime career in Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD), starting at Microchemistry Ltd. with ALD pioneer Dr. Tuomo Suntola in 1990, and now holding over 100 patents.

Conference co-chairs Simon Elliott, Tyndall National Institute of Ireland (left) and Jonas Sundqvist, Lund University of Sweden (right) acknowledge Suvi Haukka from ASM International N.V. (center) as recipient of the "ALD Innovation Prize" at the 16th International Conference on Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD 2016) held last month in Dublin, Ireland. (Source: ALD 2016)

Conference co-chairs Simon Elliott, Tyndall National Institute of Ireland (left) and Jonas Sundqvist, Lund University of Sweden (right) acknowledge Suvi Haukka from ASM International N.V. (center) as recipient of the “ALD Innovation Prize” at the 16th International Conference on Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD 2016) held last month in Dublin, Ireland. (Source: ALD 2016)

Since ASM bought Microchemistry in 1999, Haukka has worked on the manufacturability of ALD processes for the semiconductor industry. Today, ALD technology is essential for the high-volume manufacturing (HVM) of advanced ICs, with growing demand for the fabrication of nanoscale 3D devices such as finFETs and 3D-NAND Flash cells.

As reported by Riikka Puurunen in his ALD History Blog, Haukka joins a short list of technology luminaries who have been previous recipients of the prize:
* 2011 Roy Gordon (Harvard University),
* 2012 Markku Leskelä (University of Helsinki),
* 2013 Steven George (University of Colorado),
* 2014 Hyeongtag Jeon (Hanyang University), and
* 2015 Gregory Parsons (North Carolina State University).

More on the ALD 2016 conference can be read in the travel report blog.

[DISCLAIMER:  Ed Korczynski and Jonas Sundqvist also work for TECHCET CA, and were co-chairs of the 2016 Critical Materials Conference.]


SAQP Specs for 7nm finFETs

As discussed in my last Ed’s Threads, lithography has become patterning as evidenced by first use of Self-Aligned Quadruple Patterning (SAQP) in High Volume Manufacturing (HVM) of memory chips. Meanwhile, industry R&D hub imec has been investigating use of SAQP for “7nm” and “5nm” node finFET HVM, as reported as SPIE-AL this year in Paper 9782-12.
The specifications for pitches ranging from 18 to 24 nanometers are as follow:

  • 7.0nm Critical Dimension (CD) after etch,
  • 0.5nm (3sigma) CD uniformity (CDU), and
  • <1nm Line-Width and Line-End Roughness (LWR and LER) assuming 10% of CD.

“Pitch walk”—variation in final pitch after multi-patterning—results in different line widths, and can result in subsequent excessive etch variation due to non-uniform loading effects. To keep the pitch walk in SAQP at acceptable levels for the 7nm node, the core-1 CDU has to be 0.5nm 3sigma and 0.8nm range after both litho and etch. In other presentations at SPIE-AL this year, the best LER after litho was ~4nm, improving to ~2nm after PEALD smoothing of sidewalls, but still double the desired spec.

The team at imec developed a SAQP flow using amorphous-Carbon (aC) and amorphous-Silicon (aSi) as the cores, and low-temperature Plasma-Enhanced Atomic-Layer Deposition (PEALD) of SiO2 for both sets of spacers. Bilayer DARC (SiOC) and BARC were used for reflectivity control. Compared to SAQP schemes where the mandrels are only aSi, imec claims that this approach saves 20% in cost due to the use of aC core and the elimination of etch-stopping-layers.


Litho becomes Patterning

Once upon a time, lithographic (litho) processes were all that IC fabs needed to transfer the design-intent into silicon chips. Over the last 10-15 years, however, IC device structural features have continued to shrink below half the wavelength of the laser light used in litho tools, such that additional process steps are needed to form the desired features. Self-Aligned Double Patterning (SADP) schemes use precise coatings deposited as “spacers” on the sidewalls of mandrels made from developed photoresist or a sacrificial material at a given pitch, such that after selective mandrel etching the spacers pitch-split. SADP has been used in HVM IC fabs for many years now. Self-Aligned Quadruple Pattering (SAQP) has reportedly been deployed in a memory IC fab, too.

An excellent overview of the patterning complexities of SAQP was provided by Sophie Thibaut of TEL in a presentation at SPIE-AL on “SAQP integration using spacer on spacer pitch splitting at the resist level for sub-32nm pitch applications.” Use of a spacer-on-spacer process flow—enabled by clever combinations of SiO2 and TiO2 spacers deposited by Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD)—requires the following unit-process steps:
1 193i litho,
2 ALD spacers,
2 wet etches, and
4 plasma etches.

Since non-litho processes dominate the transfer of design-intent to silicon, from first principles we should consider such integrated flows as “patterning.” Etch selectivity to remove one material while leaving another, and deposition dependent on underlying materials determine much of the pattern fidelity. Such process flows are new to IC fabs, but have been used for decades in the manufacturing of Micro-Electrical Mechanical Systems (MEMS), though generally on a patterning length scale of microns instead of the nanometers needed for advanced ICs. R&D labs today are even experimenting with Self-Aligned Octuple Patterning (SAOP), and based on the legacy of MEMS processing it certainly could be done.


Electronic Materials Specifications and Markets

At SEMICON West this year, July 14-16 in San Francisco, the Chemical and Gas Manufacturers Group (CGMG) Committee of SEMI have organized an excellent program covering “Contamination Control in the Sub-20nm Era” to occur in the afternoon of the 14th as part of the free TechXPOT series. Recent high-volume manufacturing (HVM) developments have shown much tighter IC control specifications in terms of particles, metal contaminants, and organic contaminants. The session will present a comprehensive picture of how the industry value chain participants are collaborating to address contamination control challenges:
1. IDM / foundry about the evolving contamination control challenges and requirements,
2. OEM process and metrology/defect inspection tools to minimize defects, and
3. Materials and sub-component makers eliminating contaminants in the materials manufacturing, shipment, and dispensing process before they reach the wafer.

Updated reports about the markets for specialty electronic materials have recently been published by the industry analysts at TechCet, including topics such as ALD/CVD presursors, CMP consumables, general gases, PVD targets, and silicon wafers. Strategic inflection points continue to appear in different sub-markets for specialty materials, as specifications evolve to the point that a nano-revolution is needed. One example is TechCet’s recent reporting that 3M’s fixed-abrasive pad for CMP has been determined to be unable to keep up with defect demands below 20nm, and is undergoing an orderly withdrawal from the market.

As in prior years, SEMICON West includes many free and paid technology sessions and workshops, the Silicon Innovation Forum and other business events, as well as a profusion of partner events throughout the week.


ALD of Crystalline High-K SHTO on Ge

Alternative channel materials (ACM) such as germanium (Ge) will need to be integrated into future CMOS ICs, and one part of the integration was shown at the recent Materials Research Society (MRS) spring meeting by John Ekerdt, Associate Dean for Research in Chemical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, in his presentation on “Atomic Layer Deposition of Crystalline SrHfxTi1-xO3 Directly on Ge (001) for High-K Dielectric Applications.”

Strontium hafnate, SrHfO3 (SHO), and strontium titanate, SrTiO3 (STO), with dielectric constants of ~15 and ~90 (respectively) can be grown directly on Ge using atomic layer deposition (ALD). Following a post-deposition anneal at 550-590°C for 5 minutes, the perovskite films become crystalline with epitaxial registry to the underlying Ge (001) substrate. Capacitor structures using the crystalline STO dielectric show a k~90 but also high leakage current. In efforts to optimize electrical performance including leakage current and dielectric constant, crystalline SrHfxTi1-xO3 (SHTO) can be grown directly on Ge by ALD. SHTO benefits from a reduced leakage current over STO and a higher k value than SHO. By minimizing the epitaxial strain and maintaining an abrupt interface, the SHTO films are expected to reduce dielectric interface-traps (Dit) at the oxide-Ge interface.

Much of the recent conference has been archived, and can now be accessed online.


Moore’s Law is Dead – (Part 3) Where?

…we reach the atomic limits of device scaling.

At ~4nm pitch we run out of room “at the bottom,” after patterning costs explode at 45nm pitch.

Lead bongo player of physics Richard Feynman famously said, “There’s plenty of room at the bottom,” and in 1959 when the IC was invented a semiconductor device was composed of billions of atoms so it seemed that it would always be so. Today, however, we can see the atomic limits of miniaturization on the horizon, and we can start to imagine the smallest possible functioning electronic device.

Today’s leading edge ICs are made using “22nm node” fab technology where the smallest lithographically defined structure—likely a transistor gate—is just 22nm across. However, the pitch between such transistors is ~120nm, because we are already dealing with the resolution limits of lithography using water-immersion 193nm with off-axis-illumination through phase-shift masks. Even if a “next-generation” lithography (NGL) technology were proven cost-effective in manufacturing— perhaps EbDW for guidelines combined with DSA for feature fill and EUV for trim—we still must control individual atoms.

We may have confidence in shrinking to 62nm pitch for a 4x increase in density. We may even be optimistic that we can shrink further to a 41nm pitch for a ~10x increase in density…but that’s nearing the atomic limits of variability. There are many hypothesized nanoscale devices which could succeed silicon CMOS in IC, but one commonality of all devices is that they will have to be electrically connected. Therefore, we can simplify our consideration of the atomic limits of device scaling by focusing on the smallest possible interconnect.

4nmPitchDevice_TheorySo what is the smallest possible electrical interconnect? So far it would be a Single-Walled Carbon NanoTube (SWCNT) doped with metals to be conducting. The minimum diameter of a SWCNT happens to be 0.4nm, but that was found inside another CNT and the minimum repeatable diameter for a stand-alone SWCNT is ~1nm. So if we need three contacts to a device then the smallest device we can build with atoms would be a 3nm diameter quantum dot. As shown in the figure at right, if we examine a plan-view of such a device we can just fit three 1nm diameter contacts within the area.

Our magical device will have to be electrically isolated and so some manner of dielectric will be needed with some minimal number of atoms. Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) of alumina has been proven in very tight geometries, and 3 atomic layers of alumina takes up ~1nm so we can assume that spacing between devices. A rectangular array would then result in ~16nm2 as the smallest possible 3-terminal device that can be built on the surface of planet Earth.

Note that a SWCNT of ~1 nm diameter theoretically could carry ~25 microAmps across an estimated 5kOhm internal resistance [(ECS Transactions, 3 (2) 441-448 (2006)]. I will leave it to someone with a stronger device physics background to comment as to the suitability of such contacts for useful circuitry. However, from a manufacturing perspective, to ensure electrical contacts to billions of nanoscale devices we generally use redundant structures, and doubling the number of SWCNT contacts to a 3-terminal device would call for ~8 nm pitch.

However, before we reach the 4-8nm pitch theoretical limits of device scaling, we will reach relative economic limits of scaling just one device feature such as a transistor gate. Recall that there are just 22 silicon atoms (assuming silicon crystal lattice spacing of ~0.3nm) across a ~7nm line, and every atom counts in controlling device parameters. Imec’s Aaron Thean recently provided an excellent overview of scaled finFET technologies, and though the work does not look at packing density we can draw some general trends. If we assume 41nm pitch and double fins with 20nm gate length then each device would use ~1,600 nm2.

Where are we now? Let us consider traditional 6-transistor (6T) SRAM cells built using “22nm node” logic process flows to have minimal area of ~100,000 nm2 or ~16,000 nm2 per transistor. At IEDM2013 (9.1), TSMC announced a “16nm node” 6T SRAM with ~70,000 nm2 area or ~10,000 nm2 per transistor.

IBM recently announced that 6 parallel 30nm long SWCNT spaced 8nm apart will be developed as transistors for ICs by the year 2020. Such an array would use up ~1440 nm2 of area. Again, this is at best another 10x in density compared to today’s “22nm node” ICs.

Imec held another Technology Forum at SEMICON/West this year, in which Wilfried Vandervorst presented an overview of innovations in metrology needed to continue shrinking device dimensions. His work with Scanning Spreading Resistance Microscopy (SSRM) is extraordinary, showing ability to resolve 1-2nm conductivity variations in memory cell material. Working with Resistive RAM (ReRAM) material using a 2nm diameter probe tip as the top contact, researchers were able to show switching of the material only underneath the contact…thus proving that a stable ReRAM cell can be made with that diameter. If we use cross-bar architectures of that material we’d be at a 4nm pitch for memory, coincidentally the same pitch needed for the densest array of 3-terminal logic components.


Pitch / “Node”

Transistor nm2

Scale from 22nm

193nm lithography double-patterning

124nm / “22nm”



Atomic variability (economics)

41nm / “7nm”



Perfect atoms (physics)




The refreshing aspect of this interconnect analysis is that it just doesn’t matter what magical switch you imagine replacing CMOS. No matter whether you imagine quantum-dots or molecular memories as circuit elements, you have to somehow connect them together.

Note also that moving to 3D IC designs does not fundamentally change the economic limits of scaling, nor does it alter the interconnect challenge. 3D ICs will certainly allow for greater number of devices to be packed into a given volume, so mobile applications will likely continue to pull for 3D integration. However, the cost/transistor is limited by 2D process technologies that have evolved over 60 years to provide maximum efficiency. Stacking IC layers will allow for faster and smaller devices, though generally only with greater costs.

Atoms don’t scale.

Past posts in the blog series:

Moore’s Law is Dead – (Part 1) What defines the end, and

Moore’s Law is Dead – (Part 2) When we reach economic limits.

The final post in this blog series (but not the blog) will discuss:

Moore’s Law is Dead – (Part 4) Why we say long live “Moore’s Law”!