Before silicon wafers are placed in a diffusion furnace, they must be cleaned to remove impurities and particles from their surfaces. Such pre-diffusion cleaning takes place several times during semiconductor manufacturing as microscopic structures are fabricated in the silicon. Various wafer cleaning process methods include the use of different chemical baths, ozone treatment or megasonic cleaning for ensuring that wafers are clean and free from contamination. Modutek offers a complete range of equipment that supports the various cleaning methods and helps ensure the highest quality output from semiconductor manufacturing facilities.
Standard cleaning methods involve immersing the silicon wafers in baths of powerful chemicals that remove contaminants and particles from the surface of the wafers. Silicon is relatively inert to reactions with the chemicals used but organic and metallic impurities on the wafer surfaces are oxidized and dissolved.
In the RCA wafer cleaning process silicon wafers are placed into a solution containing ammonium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide. This bath removes organic contaminants but may leave metallic traces. As a result, the RCA clean process is often carried out in two parts called SC1 (standard clean 1) and SC2. After the ammonium hydroxide/hydrogen peroxide (APM) bath, the SC2 step consists of a bath containing hydrochloric acid and hydrogen peroxide (HPM). SC2 removes metal ions and leaves the wafer clean and ready for further processing.
Piranha etch clean is used to remove large amounts of organic residue from silicon wafers. It consists of a bath containing sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide and can dissolve hard to remove organic material such as photoresist. The solution’s strong oxidizing properties hydroxilate the surfaces of the silicon wafers, making them hydrophilic or attractive to water. This property may be an advantage for subsequent cleaning steps.
Megasonic cleaning is another method for obtaining clean, particle-free silicon wafers for diffusion. The method uses cavitation bubbles produced by megasonic waves in a cleaning solution to remove particles and contaminants from wafers. The bubbles produce a scrubbing action that cleans wafer surfaces without the use of expensive and corrosive chemicals.
In some cleaning applications, ozone may be used to obtain clean, particle-free silicon wafers. The wafers are first rinsed with deionized water to remove water-miscible contaminants and are then exposed to ozone in an ozone chamber. All organic contaminants and particles are converted to carbon dioxide leaving the wafer surface clean and particle-free.
The Importance of Effective Cleaning
The presence of particles on the silicon wafer surface affects the subsequent diffusion steps and impacts the quality of the final product. Particles may be diffused into the silicon along with the doping substances and produce unknown electrical anomalies. They may remain on the surface and block subsequent etching processes to change microscopic structures. They may interfere with the creation of tiny conductor paths on the surface of the silicon and they can create chemical patches that don’t react as expected.
With the trend to smaller size geometries in silicon wafer structures, the potential damage that a single particle can cause has increased. Particles may affect the performance of a semiconductor product or its reliability. The product lifetime may be reduced or its functionality impaired. Defective products reduce plant performance while low quality products hurt the facility’s reputation. Ideally semiconductor manufacturers need equipment that will help them produce high quality semiconductors with low reject rates by emphasizing effective wafer cleaning methods with a maximum reduction in the presence of particle contamination.
Modutek Wafer Cleaning Solutions
Modutek offers a complete line of chemical baths and wet processing equipment that supports RCA clean with SC1 and SC2, piranha clean, megasonic cleaning and ozone clean. Each wafer cleaning process is designed to provide effective pre-diffusion cleaning to produce silicon wafers with a minimum of particle contamination.
In addition to traditional chemical cleaning, Modutek has pioneered advanced ozone cleaning and is using megasonic cleaning for additional particle removal for smaller device geometries. The company can help semiconductor manufacturing facilities increase their throughput, improve their performance and reduce their costs by drawing on the extensive experience they have developed in the various silicon wafer cleaning applications.