How Are Isotropic and Anisotropic Processes Used to Improve Silicon Wet Etching?

How Are Isotropic and Anisotropic Processes Used to Improve Silicon Wet EtchingThe microscopic structures produced by silicon wet etching can be created with a high degree of precision by using both isotropic and anisotropic processes. Isotropic etching is faster but may etch under masks to create rounded shapes. Anisotropic etching can be controlled more precisely and can produce straight sides with exact dimensions. In each case, controlling the etch bath temperature and the etchant concentration is critical for successful micro-structure creation and for repeatability for subsequent batches.

How Isotropic and Anisotropic Etching Differ

Silicon wafers have a mono-crystalline lattice structure that repeats in all directions but is not equally dense in all directions. Vertical planes contain a different number of silicon atoms than diagonal planes. This means that etching with certain etchants is slower in the directions with more atoms while it progresses faster in the directions with fewer atoms.

Etchants used for isotropic etching, such as hydrofluoric acid, etch at the same speed in all directions, independently of silicon atom density. For etchants used for anisotropic etching, such as potassium hydroxide (KOH), the etching speed depends on the number of silicon atoms in a crystal lattice plane and therefore depends on the direction of the different planes.

The difference in anisotropic etching speeds allows a better control of shapes etched into the silicon wafers. With a corresponding orientation of the silicon wafer, etching can be timed to produce straight or angled sides and sharp corners. Etching under masks can be reduced.

How Isotropic and Anisotropic Etching Are Used in Semiconductor Manufacturing

Isotropic etching is harder to control than anisotropic etching but it is faster. In the initial stages of silicon wafer fabrication, large features are etched into the silicon. At this stage of manufacturing, etching speed is important for facility throughput. Isotropic etching is used to quickly create these large shapes with rounded sides and corners. Although process engineers and operators have less control over the shape of the feature being etched, accurate temperature and concentration control are still important to ensure that the rounded shapes being created are the same on wafers processed in different batches.

After the large shapes are etched with an isotropic process, the micro-structures and metal paths require better control of the details. Anisotropic etching provides this control as long as the lattice structure of the silicon wafer is oriented correctly. Anisotropic KOH etching is reliable and easily controlled. It can be used to create the precise, straight-sided shapes that are required in the final semiconductor product. Accurate control of the temperature and etchant concentration is even more important for anisotropic etching because these process parameters strongly influence the etching speeds in the various directions and therefore influence the final shapes that are etched.

Modutek Teflon Tanks Support Both Isotropic and Anisotropic Etching

For silicon wet etching processes in which the etch speed is temperature dependent, Modutek’s heated Teflon tanks provide rapid heating and tight temperature control. The tanks are either recirculating or static and they can be built into any new wet bench configuration. The tanks feature 360-degree overflow filtration and uniform heating throughout the bath. The heat-up rate is 2 to 3 degrees centigrade per minute and the temperature control accuracy is plus/minus 0.5 degree centigrade. The temperature controls of these tanks are ideally suited for both isotropic and anisotropic etching.

In terms of control of etchant concentration, Modutek can provide for the injection of de-ionized water into the tanks. Because etchant concentration affects the etch speed, accurate concentration control is important for final product quality and repeatability. Modutek can analyze customer requirements, find and build custom solutions and ensure that process control is precise enough to deliver the required results, both for isotropic and for anisotropic etching.

How Megasonic Cleaning Reduces Costs and Improves Silicon Wafer Yields

How Megasonic Cleaning Reduces Costs and Improves Silicon Wafer YieldsBetween process steps that etch silicon wafers and deposit circuit paths, semiconductor manufacturing relies on wafer cleaning to remove material from previous process steps and microscopic contaminating particles. As structures and circuits on wafers decrease in size, even the tiniest particles can interfere with etching and the creation of circuits and micro-structures.

Such interference can cause defects in the final semiconductor product, lower product performance or cause a reduced product lifespan. The use of Megasonic Cleaning results in a gentle cleaning action that dislodges particles from wafer surfaces while leaving the wafer, its circuits and structures undamaged. Megasonic Cleaning reduces chemical use and final product rejection rates using a process that is completely safe and environmentally friendly.

Megasonic Cleaning Delivers Quick Results with Safe, Gentle Cleaning Action

Megasonic cleaning systems generate microscopic cavitation bubbles in the cleaning solution. When a bubble bursts, it produces a tiny jet that dislodges contaminants from the surfaces of the parts to be cleaned. Lower ultrasonic frequencies generate comparatively large bubbles and powerful jets while high frequencies clean with smaller bubbles and less energetic jets.

The tiny structures etched into the silicon and the microscopic metal filaments deposited on the wafers are easily damaged. Products such as microprocessors, micro electro mechanical systems (MEMS), and controllers may not work properly if precise cleaning procedures are not followed. Using frequencies above 950 kHz in the megahertz range for cleaning the wafers ensures that the Megasonic Cleaning action takes place with the tiniest bubbles and the least energetic jets. As a result, Megasonic Cleaning is gentle enough to remove contaminating particles while leaving silicon surfaces, micro-structures and metallic deposits intact.

Reduced Use of Chemicals Saves Money

The traditional wafer cleaning process uses strong chemicals to strip contaminants and particles from wafer surfaces. In addition to the cost of purchasing the chemicals, there are costs for storage, handling and disposal. As environmental regulations become more strict, hazardous chemicals have to be stored in special containment facilities. Chemical delivery systems have to include special measures that guard against spills. Once the chemicals are used, they have to be neutralized and disposed of in a way that doesn’t harm the environment. All these measures are expensive and will become more costly as regulations tighten.

Workplace safety is another costly aspect of the use of hazardous chemicals. Operators have to be protected against inadvertent contact with corrosive materials and many of the chemicals emit dangerous vapors that require expensive ventilation equipment. Operators that work with hazardous chemicals need protective clothing that reduces productivity and work accidents can lead to serious injury.

Megasonic Cleaning removes contaminants from wafers and dislodges particles more effectively than chemical methods. The reduced use of chemicals saves money and leads to a safer, more productive workplace environment.

Modutek’s Megasonic Cleaning Improves Sub-Micron Particle Removal

Modutek has partnered with Kaijo Corporation, a world leader in megasonic and ultrasonic cleaning technology, bringing Megasonic Cleaning to wet bench semiconductor manufacturing. Modutek has integrated Megasonic Cleaners into the company’s wet bench equipment to produce unparalleled low particle counts. The bubbles of the Megasonic Cleaning system agitate the cleaning bath to disrupt boundary layers, allowing effective cleaning action around complex microscopic structures and inside holes. The tiny jets produced by the bursting bubbles break the bonds between the wafer surfaces and surface particles and allow the particles to be removed by cleaning solution currents.

The low particle counts achieved by Modutek’s wet bench stations incorporating Megasonic Cleaning reduce defects and improve yields for semiconductor manufacturing lines. Product quality rises while costs go down. Using the latest Modutek Megasonic Cleaning equipment improves overall facility performance for semiconductor manufacturing plants and research labs. Contact Modutek for a free consultation on selecting the right equipment to meet your manufacturing requirements.