How Teflon Tanks Improve the KOH Etching Process

How Teflon Tanks Improve the KOH Ethcing ProcessEtching silicon wafers with potassium hydroxide (KOH) is a popular process for semiconductor manufacturing because it is relatively safe compared to other etching methods and because it features good control of the etch rate. When carried out in Teflon tanks, contamination is reduced and the etch rate can be controlled.

A key factor for successful etching is to determine the required etch rate. If the rate is too fast, the KOH may etch too far into the silicon, while if the rate is too slow, the etched holes might be too shallow. Improving the KOH etching process means applying several control methods to the etch rate to ensure the resulting etched shapes are exactly correct.

Process Factors that Affect the KOH Etch Rate

The KOH etch rate in silicon wafers is influenced by the following factors:

  • Process temperature. The higher the temperature of the KOH solution, the faster KOH will etch the silicon.
  • Solution concentration. A higher concentration increases the etch rate. Normally the concentration of the KOH solution is about 30 percent, but it can vary from 10 to 50 percent, with a corresponding effect on the etch rate.
  • Doping. Doping means adding impurities to the silicon crystal. When boron is placed into the silicon crystal lattice at a specific location, etching stops in that direction. Boron doping can influence the shapes to be etched in this way.
  • Crystal lattice orientation. The silicon crystal atoms are arranged in a cubic lattice that has a greater atom density in some directions than in others. Etching is slower in directions with a higher atom density.

All four factors have to be taken into account when designing the mask to obtain the microscopic structures in the silicon. The silicon wafer has to be oriented correctly to give the different etch rates along with the different lattice directions. Doping has to be in a place where etching is required to stop and the correct KOH solution concentration has to be mixed. These are initial conditions that are established before the process starts. A target temperature can be set as well but the temperature can be varied to adjust the etch rate during processing. The ability to vary the etch rate by changing the temperature results in excellent control of the KOH etching process.

Modutek Teflon Tanks Feature Rapid Heating and Precise Temperature Control

Modutek’s Teflon tanks for KOH processing are available in a circulating or a static design. The heat source is either inline or immersed in the overflow weir. An all-Teflon liquid path reduces the possibility of contamination. The heated tanks can improve the KOH etching process with short heat-up times and precise temperature control. As a result, Modutek Teflon tanks can keep the etch rate steady by maintaining an accurate temperature set point or can allow the etch rate to be adjusted with fast and reliable controlled temperature changes.

Both models of Teflon tanks feature uniform heating throughout the baths, level and temperature limit settings, and a drain interlock. Heat up rates are 2 to 3 degrees centigrade per minute and the temperature is controlled with a precision of plus/minus 0.5 degrees centigrade. The operating temperature is from 30 to 100 degrees centigrade and a cooling refluxor with Teflon cooling coils is included.

Modutek’s Teflon tanks are available in standard sizes but can work with customers to design and build systems with custom sizes and special requirements. With their high-quality materials, precise temperature controls, and customization capabilities, Modutek’s Teflon tanks can improve the KOH etching process to deliver better semiconductor manufacturing results. Contact Modutek for a free consultation to discuss your specific process requirements.

How Specialized Equipment Improves Silicon Wet Etching Processes

Results from common wet etching processes such as KOH and Piranha etch can be improved with the use of specialized equipment. Depending on the process, key parameters can be controlled especially well and innovative procedures can reduce particle counts. When specialized equipment is used in silicon wet etching processes, wafer output can increase, defects can be reduced and output quality can improve. Equipment such as temperature controls, recirculating baths, and special control strategies can optimize specific processes and positively impact overall facility performance.

KOH Etching is Reliable and Easy to Control

Etching with potassium hydroxide (KOH) is a favorite process for applications requiring tight control of the etch rate. The KOH etch speed depends on the concentration of the bath and the temperature. A base etch rate can be attained by using an appropriate concentration and the rate can then be varied by controlling the temperature.

Modutek Teflon tanks are specially suited for KOH etching because they minimize contamination and feature tight temperature control. The TI static tanks and the TFa recirculating tanks are temperature-controlled models while the TT series of tanks operate at ambient temperature. The TI and TFa models operate over a temperature range of 30 to 180 degrees centigrade and temperature control is within plus/minus 0.5 degrees centigrade. Modutek Teflon tanks with KOH etching feature excellent output quality with low defects and high reproducibility.

Piranha Etch Works Quickly

Piranha etch uses a mixture of sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide to quickly remove organic residue such as photoresist from silicon wafer surfaces. The mixture has to be handled carefully because it is highly exothermic when first prepared. Normal operation is often at around 130 degrees centigrade so the process requires tanks that can withstand high temperatures and can be heated.

Modutek quartz baths are ideal tanks for Piranha etching. The QFa series high temperature circulating baths can withstand the initial temperature spike from mixture preparation and the subsequent heating to operating temperature. The quartz tanks heat at a rate of two degrees centigrade per minute and temperature accuracy is plus/minus one-degree centigrade. Modutek quartz baths with Piranha etch represent an inexpensive, safe and reliable etching process.

Buffered Oxide Etch (BOE) Etches Silicon Dioxide

Buffered oxide etch uses buffered hydrofluoric acid to etch thin films of silicon dioxide or silicon nitride. The Modutek F-series sub-ambient circulating baths reduce consumption of acid and filter out contaminating particles. Temperatures of 10 to 60 degrees centigrade are maintained within plus/minus 1-degree centigrade and the sub-micron particle filter reduces the particle count and improves yields. Modutek has designed the F-series baths especially for BOE applications and delivers a safe and reliable process with low-cost operation.

Silicon Nitride Etching Requires Special Control Measures

A phosphoric acid and de-ionized water mixture etches silicon nitride in a process that requires special stabilizing controls. The mixture usually operates at its boiling point of about 160 degrees centigrade. As the etching proceeds, de-ionized water evaporates, leaving an increasing concentration of acid behind. The higher concentration increases the boiling point and the etch rate. To keep the process working consistently, the concentration has to be restored to the lower level.

Adding enough water to restore the concentration risks an explosive reaction when the water mixes with the acid. Modutek has designed a control system that frequently adds small quantities of water to the silicon nitride wet etching baths whenever the temperature rises. The small amount of water is mixed in immediately and the concentration remains steady. Modutek’s specialized control system ensures improved stability and safe operation.

Modutek’s extensive experience in wet process fabrication allows the company to design and build specialized equipment to meet the needs of its silicon wet etching process customers. Such special equipment can improve output quality, reduce costs, and increase yields.

How Process Controls Improve KOH Etching Results

How Process Controls Improve KOH Etching ResultsWhile potassium hydroxide (KOH) etching is a versatile process for creating silicon microstructures, precise and responsive controls are required to get superior results. The KOH wet bench process is popular because KOH etches quickly and it is less hazardous than some other processes. Combined with accurate chemical delivery and reliable process controls, KOH etching can deliver exact etching dimensions and reproducible results for batch processing.

KOH Etching Can Create Complex Shapes

The KOH process is used widely because, in addition to etching quickly, it can be set up to etch at different speeds in different directions. For example, technicians may want to etch downward, into the silicon wafer, more quickly than etching in a horizontal direction. They may want to create a rectangular shape, where the long side has a different etch rate than the short side.

The etching direction is influenced by the crystal lattice orientation of the silicon wafer and possible doping of the wafer with boron. The etching speed depends on the KOH mixture concentration and temperature. To obtain improved KOH etching results, the etching process has to be set up to include all these factors and produce the desired result every time the process runs.

When the microstructures to be etched into the wafer require different etching speeds, the process uses the fact that the crystal lattice can be denser in one direction than another. Because there are more atoms to etch away in the denser direction, etching progresses more slowly. Boron doping is a way to stop etching in a particular direction. KOH will not etch areas with boron impurities, so etching stops at the doped silicon.

Once the wafer with the correct crystal orientation and doping is ready for etching, a basic etch speed can be determined with the KOH concentration. The etch speed is controlled by the KOH mixture temperature but the concentration has to be high enough for the desired etch speed.

Typical KOH concentrations can vary from 10 percent to 50 percent with 30 percent KOH by weight representing a common value. The mixture is heated to between 60 and 80 degrees centigrade and held steady at the temperature that gives the desired etch speed. With right wafer crystal orientation, doping in the right places and the correct etch speed, the microstructures will be completed in a given time.

Teflon Tanks with Precise Controls Produce Improved Output

The Teflon tanks designed and manufactured by Modutek feature the precise temperature controls and accurate support equipment that an effective KOH process requires. To etch the silicon wafer with a high degree of accuracy, operators have to make sure the concentration of KOH is at exactly the right value and have to be able to control the temperature within narrow limits.

Modutek’s wet bench equipment can deliver the KOH mixture to the Teflon tanks at the right concentration. The tank temperature controls can produce a heating rate of 2 to 3 degrees centigrade per minute, leading to rapid correction of temperature deviations. The controller accuracy is plus/minus 0.5 degrees centigrade, precise enough for excellent etching speed control.

The precise controls mean that the etch rate remains exactly at the desired level. The dimensions of the silicon microstructures are etched exactly as planned and the KOH process delivers high-quality output. Equally important is that the next time a batch is run with identical requirements and settings, the output is reproducible and the silicon microstructures are the same.

Modutek offers a complete line of wet bench processing equipment and can adapt the KOH etching tanks as well as other processing stations to meet the needs of its customers. All equipment is designed and built-in house, allowing for extensive customization and unparalleled customer support and service.

How Quick Dump Rinsers Improve Silicon Wet Etching Processes

How Quick Dump Rinsers Improve Silicon Wet Etching ProcessesWhen silicon wafers in a wet etching process need rinsing, quick dump rinsers provide fast and effective rinsing of chemicals and particles. In semiconductor fabrication lines such as those of semiconductor manufacturers and research labs, silicon wafers are etched with chemicals. Once the required structures and current paths have been etched into the silicon, the chemicals have to be rinsed off to prevent continued etching. Modutek’s quick dump rinser uses de-ionized water to wash away all traces of chemicals while introducing no new sources of particle contamination. When rinsing is complete, the quick dump rinser drains rapidly. It combines excellent rinsing performance with fast processing and reduced particle counts.

What Makes a Quick Dump Rinser is Efficient and Effective?

Modutek has applied state-of-the-art engineering techniques to design a quick dump rinser that reduces de-ionized water consumption while featuring a short rinsing time and particle reduction. The large trap door and the contoured rinsing vessel shorten dump times and promote laminar flow to rinse away contaminants. The machined dump door has no seals or gaskets that could entrap particles and the smooth polypropylene construction of the tank ensures that it is not a source of new particle contamination.

When the silicon wafers are placed in the rinser, de-ionized water jets rinse the chemicals from the wafer surfaces. The tank fills, bringing the rinsed contaminants to the surface where they leave the tank through the overflow weir. A nitrogen bubbler generates gas bubbles that rise through the water, removing additional contaminants and particles. At the end of the rinse cycle, the trap door at the bottom of the tank opens to quickly drain the water. The whole process is fast and rinsing is complete without added contamination.

Quick Dump Rinsers Provide Substantial Benefits

The use of quick dump rinsers can improve production line performance and output quality. Modutek has designed its quick dump rinser to address wet process manufacturing concerns, including water use, rinsing effectiveness, particle counts and timing. When quick dump rinsers work rapidly, effectively removing chemicals and particles, throughput can increase and the product rejection rate can go down.

Fast rinsing reduces de-ionized water use. Modutek’s 360-degree overflow weir lets contaminated water exit the tank easily and reduces particle entrapment. Dual overhead spray manifolds and low misting nozzles improve rinsing performance with an even distribution of the spray. The nitrogen gas bubbler and tank design promote an even flow around the wafers and the large dump door drains the tank completely in seconds.

Key benefits include reduced costs, fewer product defects and faster production line operation. Reduced de-ionized water use lowers costs and an optional reclaim system can result in additional savings.

The tight packing of semiconductor structures and their decreasing size makes the process more and more sensitive to particle contamination. Even the tiniest particle can cause defects in the final product. Modutek’s quick dump rinser is designed to reduce particle counts and the product failure rate can decrease as a result.

Rinsing is required after many of the wet process production steps and any time saved with a quick dump rinser is multiplied by the number of times rinsing takes place in the semiconductor fabrication production line. The Modutek quick dump rinser delivers these benefits by addressing overall semiconductor manufacturing requirements.

Modutek Works to Improve the Silicon Wet Etching Process for Customers

In addition to quick dump rinsers, Modutek is committed to helping its customers with standard and custom silicon wet etching equipment. The company’s complete wet process product line includes quartz tanks, Teflon tanks and silicon nitride etch baths. Modutek offers free consultation and can ensure that the delivered systems fulfill the needs of its customers.

How High Temperature Quartz Tanks Improve Silicon Wafer Processing

How High Temperature Quartz Tanks Improve Silicon Wafer ProcessingThe silicon wafer processing steps that include etching or cleaning the wafers with aggressive chemicals require tanks to hold the chemical process. Quartz tanks are impervious to the acids and bases used in wet process stations and the high temperature tanks can include heating and re-circulating. Modutek is a leader in the design and manufacture of high temperature quartz tanks and has over 30 years of experience in this field. As a result, Modutek quartz tanks are designed specifically for wet process etching and cleaning applications and reduce contamination to a minimum while ensuring precise heating for accurate process control.

Key Quartz Tank Characteristics for Silicon Wafer Processing

Silicon wafer processing involves etching the wafers to produce microscopic structures and cleaning the wafers in preparation for further process steps. Corrosive chemicals such as hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide are used for the etching and cleaning process. Tanks made of quartz are not affected by these aggressive chemicals because quartz is a crystalline material made up of silicon and oxygen atoms held tightly in a crystal lattice. Semiconductor-grade quartz such as used in the Modutek quartz tanks is especially pure, reducing the possibility of contamination.

In addition to resisting corrosion by aggressive chemicals, quartz tanks are stable at high temperatures. Some etching processes work better at temperatures up to 180 degrees centigrade and the quartz crystal lattice remains intact at much higher temperatures. Modutek quartz tanks are designed to take advantage of the chemical and temperature stability of the quartz tanks to provide an ideal vessel for containing the silicon wafer etching and cleaning processes.

The Importance of Reduced Contamination

The use of high-purity flame-polished quartz in silicon wafer processing tanks ensures that there are few non-quartz substances in the crystal lattice and on the polished surface of the tanks. The possibility of contamination by the tanks is reduced to a minimum. Such contamination of the silicon wafers can affect the semiconductor products made from the wafers.

The functionality of semiconductor components relies of microscopic structures and current paths created on the silicon wafer. When a tiny particle or other contaminant interferes with the etching of these structures, the final semiconductor product may be defective or of inferior quality. The rejection rate for finished semiconductor products is heavily influenced by the presence of particles or other contaminants. Reducing the particle count by using high-quality quartz tanks reduces the number of defective components and increases output quality.

Why Precise Temperature Control Gives Improved Process Results

Depending on the chemicals used, a higher temperature may increase the etch rate and reduce processing times. While a high etch rate may be desirable, the amount of etching that takes place still has to be tightly controlled because the amount of etching determines the size and shape of the microscopic structures in the silicon. On the one hand, exactly the right amount of etching has to take place before the process finishes, and on the other hand, if the same process is run again, the amount of etching has to be the same.

The two main factors influencing the etch rate are chemical concentration and temperature. Modutek’s process controls ensure that the right chemical concentration is maintained and the quartz tank temperature controls keep the process at exactly the right temperature. Modutek’s quartz tank temperature controller can keep the temperature constant within plus/minus 1 degree centigrade for precise etching control and excellent repeatability from one batch to the next.

For improved silicon wafer processing, process tanks have to be free of contamination and have to accurately reproduce process conditions. With Modutek’s high temperature quartz tanks, reduced contamination during etching and cleaning of silicon wafers is ensured and the temperature controls of the tanks provide precise settings during the process and for subsequent batches.

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 Process Controls Improve Silicon Nitride Wet Etching Results

 How Process Controls Improve Silicon Nitride Wet Etching ResultsThe silicon nitride wet etching process uses a phosphoric acid solution in water to etch mask material quickly and reliably but the process is hard to control. Etching speed depends on the concentration of the solution and the bath temperature. Adding water to the solution to control the concentration is dangerous and, at the same time, it can change the temperature. Controlling such an unstable solution with two interdependent variables is difficult, but in the absence of reliable controls, the etching rate is not accurately maintained and the removal of silicon nitride is not precise.

How Silicon Nitride Etching With Phosphoric Acid Works

In the silicon nitride wet etching process, the silicon wafer is masked with a silicon nitride coating that has to be selectively etched. A solution of about 85 percent phosphoric acid and 15 percent de-ionized water is used to etch the silicon nitride at an optimized temperature of 165 degrees centigrade. To speed up etching, the phosphoric acid solution is heated to its boiling point. As the solution boils, water from the solution is lost as steam and the concentration of the solution rises. The boiling point of the solution rises as the concentration rises and the etch rate increases as both the temperature and the concentration increase.

To correct the etch rate, water has to be added to the bath to bring the concentration and the temperature back down. Adding water to boiling phosphoric acid is dangerous because it can reduce the temperature of the solution to below boiling. When the phosphoric acid solution is no longer boiling, the added water can form a thin film on top of the acid instead of mixing in continuously. Eventually the film will mix with the acid all at once and a “bump” can result from the exothermic reaction.

To make sure small amounts of water mix into the solution continuously, the solution has to be kept at its boiling point. Because the boiling point is variable, standard controls with a fixed temperature set point don’t work. Modutek has developed an innovative silicon nitride wet etching process control solution that features precise control of the temperature, concentration and etch rate while ensuring safe operation.

The Modutek Control Strategy Improves Etching Results

Modutek’s control concept uses an always-on heater to keep the 85 percent phosphoric acid solution at its boiling point. As water is lost to steam, the concentration of the solution starts to increase and the temperature starts to rise above the original value. A thermocouple senses the temperature rise and signals the system to add water. A small amount of water is added and is immediately mixed into the solution by the boiling action. The concentration is maintained at the original 85 percent phosphoric acid and 15 percent water and the temperature stays at the boiling point of 165 degrees centigrade with this concentration. The etch rate remains constant and the operation is safe.

Because the safety of the Modutek control strategy relies on the constant boiling of the phosphoric acid solution, an additional thermocouple is located above the hot acid to sense the presence of hot steam. Another thermocouple senses the temperature of the acid. If no steam is present or if the acid becomes too hot, the process is shut down. These emergency shut-downs don’t take effect during normal operation, but are an additional safety feature in case of equipment malfunction or operator error.

Modutek’s Control Strategy Delivers Improved Etching Performance

Modutek has tested and fine tuned their control strategy with their Nb Series silicon nitride wet etching baths for customers using manual, semi automated and fully automated wet bench stations. Customers that have been using the new equipment have achieved an average etch rate of 65 angstroms per minute while limiting oxide etch as the controls ensure safe operation at a consistent and optimum operating point.

A reliably-controlled and constant etch rate yields predictable etching and silicon nitride removal within product tolerances. When etching is not the same from batch to batch, product quality suffers and product lifespan can be reduced. Modutek manufactures a complete range of silicon wet etching equipment and with the company’s innovative control system, rejection rates are reduced and facility output is improved.

 

How Quartz Tanks Improve Wafer Manufacturing

The aggressive chemicals used in wet process wafer manufacturing have to be contained in process tanks that can resist etching and corrosion while remaining inert. Depending on the application, a process may require heating, filtration or the regular addition of chemicals. Quartz tanks from Modutek are made from semiconductor grade flame-polished quartz and are impervious to the acids and bases used in wafer processing. They minimize contamination of the wafers with particles and can be supplied in heated and re-circulating models. The high quality of the bath material along with advanced control strategies developed by Modutek help improve wafer manufacturing performance.

Cleaning Silicon Wafers Using Quartz Tanks

Wet bench processing of silicon wafers consists of fabrication steps such as etching and diffusion with cleaning required in between the steps. Wafers may be masked to etch specific parts of the wafer or to confine diffusion to certain target areas. After each process step is complete, the masking material has to be cleaned off.

Cleaning the wafers completely without contamination is critical because subsequent processing steps are affected if the wafer is not completely clean. With the microscopic architecture of semiconductor components becoming more tightly packed, even a single particle can result in a badly formed structure or conductor. When such malformations are incorporated into the final product, they can be the cause of defective or lower quality semiconductor components.

Specialized Process Controls Help Improve Wafer Manufacturing Results

Specialized quartz tanks from Modutek are based on over 30 years of experience and incorporate features to guarantee safe, reliable operation while delivering excellent wafer manufacturing results. Custom sizes, fast and even heating, reduced downtime and long vessel life help improve manufacturing facility performance and reduce costs. Quartz tank controls allow operators to program reproducible process environments and make sure temperatures and chemical concentrations are consistent. The three areas for which specialized control systems are useful are heating, chemical spiking and filtration.

Modutek high temperature re-circulating baths and constant temperature tanks heat up rapidly with a temperature rise of up to two degrees centigrade per minute. The operating temperature can range from 30 to 180 degrees centigrade and the temperature controller holds the temperature within plus or minus one degree centigrade. Quick heating helps improve throughput and accurate temperature control helps ensure high quality results.

For some chemical processes the concentration of chemicals can change during the process. Periodic spiking restores the chemical concentration to the desired level. Modutek has developed an innovative “bleed and feed” spiking method for the sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide (SPM) process.

The hydrogen peroxide of the SPM process decomposes and has to be replenished frequently. For traditional spiking, the mixture has an overall lifespan of only several hours. In Modutek’s clean tank/dirty tank using the “bleed and feed” spiking method, programmable amounts of mixture are drained from the dirty tank and transferred from the clean tank to the dirty tank. Programmable amounts of acid and peroxide are then added to the tanks. This method keeps the mixture fresh and increases the mixture’s lifespan to about one week.

In addition to controls for temperature and concentration, Modutek’s quartz tanks can reduce particle counts and wafer contamination. The quartz re-circulating tank can filter out particles down to 0.2 microns, improving output quality and reducing component failure rates.

Modutek’s quartz tanks are based on more than 30 years of experience and incorporate features to guarantee safe, reliable operation while delivering excellent wafer manufacturing results. Custom sizes, fast and even heating, reduced downtime and long vessel life help improve manufacturing facility performance and reduce costs.

Modutek continues to develop innovative techniques in the construction and use of quartz tanks for semiconductor manufacturing processing. The design of the quartz tanks and the associated advanced controls are a key factor in the production of semiconductor components of the highest quality. With extensive experience working with manufacturers in the development of advanced temperature, concentration and filtration controls, Modutek helps improve wafer manufacturing. Contact Modutek for a free consultation or quote on equipment designed to meet specialized manufacturing requirements.

Isotropic and Anisotropic Silicon Wet Etching Processes

The silicon wet etching of monocrystalline wafers produces microscopic structures that are used in micromechanical devices and semiconductor components. Areas of the silicon wafer not to be etched are protected by masks made of materials such as silicon dioxide or silicon nitride. The exposed areas of the silicon are etched when the wafer is immersed in a chemical bath.

In isotropic etching, an isotropic etchant such as hydrofluoric acid etches the silicon equally in all directions. This means that the wafer is etched directly downwards and also sideways under the mask. The resulting cavity has rounded corners and edges and is larger than the opening in the mask.

For anisotropic etching, the anisotropic etchant such as potassium hydroxide (KOH) etches with different speeds in different directions. This means that the etch rate in the downward direction can be faster than in the sideways directions under the mask. When properly designed, the anisotropic etch can produce cavities with straight sides and less undercutting of the mask.

More details on isotropic and anisotropic silicon wet etching can be found in the following documentation:

How Anisotropic Etching Works

In monocrystalline silicon wafers, the silicon atoms are arranged in a crystal lattice. The crystal has planes which have different atom densities. For example, the 111 plane in silicon is a diagonal plane that has a different atom density than the vertical 100 or 110 planes. As a result, the etching speed for certain etchants differs according to the plane of the silicon crystal through which etching takes place.

To design a successful anisotropic etching process, the etching speed of the etchant and the orientation of the crystal planes have to be coordinated. For example, if the aim is to etch a deep cavity with straight walls, the crystal planes with a slow etching speed have to be oriented along the cavity walls while the plane with a high etching speed should form the bottom. Rather than producing etched cavities with rounded walls and edges, anisotropic etching can create clearly defined straight-walled cavities along the silicon crystal planes.

Controlling the Etching Speed to Obtain Specific Structures

The silicon wafer masks define where etching can take place but the depth of the etched cavity and its shape can be determined by choosing the right etchant and controlling the etching rate. Isotropic etching is often used to create larger features in the initial stages of silicon wafer processing while anisotropic etching can produce straight-edged microstructures in the finishing stages.

Beyond the choice of the type of etching used, the etch rate depends on the concentration of the etchant and the etching solution temperature. Once the etch rate is determined for an etchant concentration at a specific temperature, the masked wafer is immersed in the etchant just long enough to produce the size of cavity required. In each case the precise concentration has to be mixed and the temperature has to be maintained at the target level. Subsequent wafers can be processed exactly the same way for reproducible results.

Differences between Isotropic and Anisotropic Silicon Wet Etching

While isotropic etching is harder to control precisely and hydrofluoric acid is difficult to handle, isotropic etching is faster than anisotropic etching. As a result it is often used for large geometries for which etching speed is an important factor. Anisotropic KOH etching is more precise but it depends on the orientation of the silicon crystal planes. If the wafer crystal orientation doesn’t match the requirements of the process, the resulting cavity will not have the desired characteristics.

Silicon wet etching equipment such as Modutek’s Teflon tanks support both types of processes and they come in temperature controlled and ambient versions. For processes dependent on temperature for controlling etch rate, the tank temperature controllers provide rapid and accurate heating. Concentration can be maintained through supplementation of de-ionized water and custom tank sizes are available if needed. For a free consultation or quote on selecting the right silicon wet etching equipment for your etching process contact Modutek at 866-803-1533.

 

Safely Controlling the Silicon Nitride Etching Process

Safely controlling the Silicon Nitride Etching ProcessSilicon nitride etch removes silicon nitride from silicon wafers during the fabrication process of semiconductor components. A solution of phosphoric acid in water etches silicon nitride rapidly and consistently as long as the temperature of the solution and the concentration of phosphoric acid are kept constant. Maintaining consistent process conditions during the silicon nitride wet etching process is difficult because adding water to phosphoric acid can result in an energetic explosive reaction. The accurate monitoring of the solution is extremely important for safe control of the process.

The Silicon Nitride Wet Etching Process

Silicon nitride is used as a mask to produce micro-structures and connections in semiconductor manufacturing. In most etching applications, the etch rate can be varied by changing the temperature or chemical concentration, but silicon nitride etch is best controlled at its boiling point and at a concentration of 85 percent phosphoric acid in a de-ionized water solution.

The phosphoric acid etching solution is a viscous liquid that is heated until it boils at about 160 degrees centigrade. The high temperature means some of the water will boil off and be lost as steam, increasing the acid concentration of the remaining liquid. As the concentration increases, the boiling point of the solution rises and water has to be added to keep the process variables constant.

The addition of water to the solution is dangerous because, if too much water is added at once, the solution stops boiling and the added water collects as a film above the viscous acid. As the temperature rises again and the acid starts boiling, the large quantity of water from the film mixes with the acid and may cause an explosive reaction.

Instead, the control system has to ensure that only small amounts of water are added at a time and these small amounts are immediately mixed with the remaining acid solution. Such a control strategy results in constant process characteristics, a safe operation and a high quality output.

How Modutek’s Nb Series Wet Etching Baths Ensure Safe Operation

Modutek has developed a bath control system that combines consistency with safe operation. For the Nb series etching baths, the phosphoric acid solution is kept boiling with a constantly-on heater that maintains the solution at its boiling point. As water evaporates and the acid concentration rises, the boiling point increases and the solution temperature goes up. The temperature rise is detected by a thermocouple and a small amount of water is added to the solution to bring the concentration back down.

Because the solution is constantly boiling, the small amount of water is immediately mixed in with the rest of the acid. The amount of water is too little to stop the solution from boiling and the heater is powerful enough to always maintain a vigorous boiling condition. To ensure that water is added only when the solution is boiling, a second thermocouple senses the presence of steam above the bath liquid and blocks the addition of water when no steam is present. A third thermocouple monitors the bath temperature to switch off the heater if the liquid overheats.

The Benefits of the Modutek Silicon Nitride Etch Bath

The advanced control system of Modutek’s Nb series baths allows semiconductor manufacturers and research labs to safely implement the silicon nitride wet etching process to achieve optimum consistency characteristics. The temperature and concentration of the etching bath remain within tight limits due to the two-level control, monitoring the temperature to correct the acid concentration.

Modutek offers the Nb series baths in their fully automatic, semi-automatic and manual wet bench stations as part of its complete line of wet process equipment. The company constantly works with customers to continuously develop improvements in wet process technology. Contact Modutek for a free consultation to discuss your specific process requirements.