Fabrication of silicon-based nano-structures and their scaling effects on mechanical and electrical properties
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Silicon-based nanostructures are essential building blocks for nanoelectronic devices and nano-electromechanical systems (NEMS), and their mechanical and electrical properties play an important role in controlling the functionality and reliability of the nano-devices. The objective of this dissertation is twofold: The first is to investigate the mechanical properties of silicon nanolines (SiNLs) with feature size scaled into the tens of nanometer level. And the second is to study the electron transport in nickel silicide formed on the SiNLs. For the first study, a fabrication process was developed to form nanoscale Si lines using an anisotropic wet etching technique. The SiNLs possessed straight and nearly atomically flat sidewalls, almost perfectly rectangular cross sections and highly uniform linewidth at the nanometer scale. To characterize mechanical properties, an atomic force microscope (AFM) based nanoindentation system was employed to investigate three sets of silicon nanolines. The SiNLs had the linewidth ranging from 24 nm to 90 nm, and the aspect ratio (Height/linewidth) from 7 to 18. During indentation, a buckling instability was observed at a critical load, followed by a displacement burst without a load increase, then a fully recoverable deformation upon unloading. For experiments with larger indentation displacements, irrecoverable indentation displacements were observed due to fracture of Si nanolines, with the strain to failure estimated to be from 3.8% to 9.7%. These observations indicated that the buckling behavior of SiNLs depended on the combined effects of load, line geometry, and the friction at contact. This study demonstrated a valuable approach to fabrication of well-defined Si nanoline structures and the application of the nanoindentation method for investigation of their mechanical properties at the nanoscale. For the study of electron transport, a set of nickel monosilicde (NiSi) nanolines with feature size down to 15 nm was fabricated. The linewidth effect on nickel silicide formation has been studied using high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM) for microstructural analysis. Four point probe electrical measurements showed that the residual resistivity of the NiSi lines at cryogenic temperature increased with decreasing line width, indicating effect of increased electron sidewall scattering with decreased line width. A mean free path for electron transport at room temperature of 5 nm was deduced, which suggests that nickel silicide can be used without degradation of device performance in nanoscale electronics.