New Insight into the Reactive Ion Etching of Fence-free Patterned Platinum Structures

        An investigation was undertaken to characterize the time progressioin of the Pt etch process during the reactive ion etching (RIE) of fence-free patterned structures. The goal of this study was to clarify the mechanism of fence-free Pt etching. Inn particular, an explanation was sought that could account for the origin of extremely shallow sidewall angles typically reported inn the literature for fence-free Pt etching. The experiment consisted of coprocessing two oxidized Si wafers possessing identical 2500 A thick Pt film layers, but different photoresist (PR) mask thicknesses. Etching was suspended at 20, 40, 60 and 80% of the full etch process in order to cleave off small pieces of wafer for analysis by scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Using Cl2-based RIE conditions known to produce fence-free etching for 2500 A thick film layers, we found that a severe fence actually coats the PR mask during the first 20% of etch process! As the etch continues the fence structure evolves, achieving a maximum height and width followed by progressive recession until disappearing completely prior to process endpoint. SEM micrographs clearly reveal how the existence of these transient fence structures account for the formation of shallow Pt sidewalls. The data also shows that the final profile of an etched Pt structure possesses a functional dependence on the initial thickness and slope of the PR mask as well as on the initial thickness of the Pt layer. Finally, we believe that the observed behavior of the transient fence provides the strongest evidence to date supporting the existence of a chemically assisted physical..

By: K. R. Milkove and C. X. Wang (IBM Hopewell Junction)

Published in: RC20632 in 1996

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