High Precision Plasma Etch for Pattern Transfer: Towards Fluorocarbon Based Atomic Layer Etching

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A basic requirement of a plasma etching process is fidelity of the patterned organic materials. In photolithography, a He plasma pretreatment (PPT) based on high ultraviolet and vacuum ultraviolet (UV/VUV) exposure was shown to be successful for roughness reduction of 193nm photoresist (PR). Typical multilayer masks consist of many other organic masking materials in addition to 193nm PR. These materials vary significantly in UV/VUV sensitivity and show, therefore, a different response to the He PPT. A delamination of the nanometer-thin, ion-induced dense amorphous carbon (DAC) layer was observed. Extensive He PPT exposure produces volatile species through UV/VUV induced scissioning. These species are trapped underneath the DAC layer in a subsequent plasma etch (PE), causing a loss of adhesion.

Next to stabilizing organic materials, the major goals of this work included to establish and evaluate a cyclic fluorocarbon (FC) based approach for atomic layer etching (ALE) of SiO2 and Si; to characterize the mechanisms involved; and to evaluate the impact of processing parameters.

Periodic, short precursor injections allow precise deposition of thin FC films. These films limit the amount of available chemical etchant during subsequent low energy, plasma-based Ar+ ion bombardment, resulting in strongly time-dependent etch rates. In situ ellipsometry showcased the self-limited etching. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) confirms FC film deposition and mixing with the substrate. The cyclic ALE approach is also able to precisely etch Si substrates. A reduced time-dependent etching is seen for Si, likely based on a lower physical sputtering energy threshold. A fluorinated, oxidized surface layer is present during ALE of Si and greatly influences the etch behavior. A reaction of the precursor with the fluorinated substrate upon precursor injection was observed and characterized. The cyclic ALE approach is transferred to a manufacturing scale reactor at IBM Research. Ensuring the transferability to industrial device patterning is crucial for the application of ALE. In addition to device patterning, the cyclic ALE process is employed for oxide removal from Si and SiGe surfaces with the goal of minimal substrate damage and surface residues. The ALE process developed for SiO2 and Si etching did not remove native oxide at the level required. Optimizing the process enabled strong O removal from the surface. Subsequent 90% H2/Ar plasma allow for removal of C and F residues.