New etching technique could advance the way semiconductor devices are made


[H]ardness Supreme
Dec 19, 2005
Pretty darn sweet if i say so!

"Advances in semiconductor device manufacturing are limited by our ability to precisely add and remove thin layers of material in multistep fabrication processes. Recent reports on atomic layer etching (ALE) have provided the means for the precise removal of inorganic thin films deposited by atomic layer deposition (ALD), opening new avenues for nanoscale device design. Here, we report on a new technique for the precise removal of metal–organic thin films deposited by molecular layer deposition (MLD), which we term molecular layer etching. This etching process employs sequential exposures of lithium organic salt (LOS) and trimethylaluminum (TMA) precursors to produce self-limiting etching behavior. We employ quartz crystal microbalance experiments to demonstrate (i) etching of alucone films preloaded with LOS upon TMA exposures and (ii) layer-by-layer etching of alucone films using alternating exposures of LOS and TMA. We also identify the selectivity of these etching mechanisms. We probe the mechanism for the layer-by-layer etching of alucone using a quartz crystal microbalance and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and identify that the etching proceeds via heterolytic cleaving of Al–O bonds in alucone upon LOS exposure followed by methylation to produce volatile species upon TMA exposure. The etching process results in the removal of 0.4 nm/cycle of alucone at 160 °C and up to 3.6 nm/cycle of alucone at 266 °C in ex situ etching experiments on silicon wafers. This halogen-free etching process enables etching of MLD films and provides new fabrication pathways for the control of material geometries at the nanoscale."