Plasma damaging process of porous ultra-low-k dielectrics and dielectric repair
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The Ultra-low-k material is required to reduce the RC time delay in the integrated circuits. However, the integration of the porous low-k material into the on-chip interconnects was impeded by the plasma induced damage during etching and photoresist stripping processes. This dissertation aims to study the mechanism of plasma damage to porous ultra-low-k dielectrics with the objective to minimize the damage and to develop methods and processes to restore the low-k dielectric after the plasma damage. First, the plasma etching induced surface roughening was studied on blanket porous SiCOH films in the fluorocarbon based plasma. Substantial surface roughening was found in the low polymerization region, where the surface roughening process was initiated by the unevenly distribution of surface fluorocarbon polymers in the pore structure and enhanced by ion induced surface densification. With oxygen addition, the surface densification layer increased the radial diffusion rate difference between the top and the bottom of the pits, resulting in further increase of the surface roughness. The best process optimization was found at a "threshold point" where the surface polymerization level is just high enough to suppress the roughness initiation. The second part of this dissertation investigates the mechanism of the oxygen plasma damaging process. The roles of plasma constituents (i.e. ions, radicals and photons with different wavelengths) were differentiated by an on-wafer filter system. Oxygen radical was identified as the most critical and its damage effect was enhanced by photons with wavelength smaller than 185nm. The oxygen radical kinetics in the porous structure of low-k, including diffusion, reaction and recombination, was described analytically with a plasma altered layer model and then simulated with a Monte Carlo computational method, which give guidelines to minimize the damage. The analytical model of oxygen radical kinetic process is also used to investigate the oxygen plasma damage to patterned low-k structure, which is confirmed by experiments. Finally, the dielectric recovery was studied using silylation and UV broadband thermal treatment, both individually and in combination. After both vapor and supercritical CO₂ silylation, surface carbon and hydrophobicity were partially recovered. However, the recovery effect was limited to the surface. In comparison, UV treatment can effectively remove water from the bulk of the damaged film and consolidate the silanol bonds with the help of thermal activation. The combination of UV and silylation treatments is more effectively for dielectric recovery than UV or silylation alone. The "UV first" treatment provided a better recovery in sequential processes. Under the same conditions, simultaneous treatments by silylation and UV irradiation achieved better bulk and surface recovery than the sequential process.