Wet Processing Application Capabilities Provided by Modutek

Modutek provides a complete line of wet processing equipment to semiconductor manufacturing plants and research facilities. The company’s wet process stations support all common cleaning and etching applications. Modutek works with customers to continuously improve wet processing performance and reduce contamination and particle counts to a minimum. Wet process applications supported by Modutek equipment include the following:

Standard Clean 1 (SC1 Clean)

The SC1 Clean process uses a mixture of ammonium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide in water to remove organic material and other non-metallic contaminants from the surface of the silicon wafer. Additional cleaning steps are required if metallic particles have to be removed.

RCA Clean

RCA Clean is a two-step process in which the first step, immersing the silicon wafer in a mixture of ammonium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide, is similar to SC1 Clean. The second step bathes the silicon wafer in a mixture of hydrochloric acid and hydrogen peroxide. This step removes metallic contamination and particles from the wafer surface, leaving it ready for further process steps.

SPM Process Clean

SPM Clean stands for cleaning with a sulfuric peroxide mixture and the method bathes silicon wafers in a solution of sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide. SPM Clean is also known as Piranha Clean and it removes heavy organic material contamination such as photoresist from the surface of the silicon wafer.

KOH Etch

KOH etching uses a potassium hydroxide solution for anisotropic etching of the silicon wafer. The process is safe and reliable and produces precise etching that can be controlled by varying the KOH concentration and the temperature. KOH etch is one of the most common etching applications.

Nitride Etch

Silicon nitride masks are etched with phosphoric acid to create highly selective etch masks where silicon dioxide masks can’t be used. While silicon dioxide masks resist etching with KOH, for example, sometimes long etching times mean that the etching selectivity versus silicon may not be enough and silicon nitride masks are used instead.

Aluminum Etch

Aluminum layers are deposited on silicon wafers to create conducting paths between the semiconductor components on the wafer. The aluminum layers have to be etched so that only the desired conducting paths are left. Etching is performed under vacuum using a variety of etchants, including phosphoric and nitric acids. The vacuum eliminates the hydrogen bubbles created in a chemical reaction with the etchants.

Modutek Equipment That Supports These Wet Processing Applications

A complete line of wet process equipment has to include chemical handling systems, stations that can support the different cleaning and processing methods and automation where needed. Modutek has chemical delivery, pumping and neutralization systems; different types of baths, tanks and rinsers; as well as fume hoods, scrubbers and dryers. The company can advise customers on the different options for a wet process line and deliver suitable equipment.

For chemical handling, Modutek can offer chemical delivery systems, pumps carts, lift stations and chemical collection systems. The systems include bulk storage or local storage container options and, once collected, the chemicals can be neutralized.

Processing and cleaning station options include quartz baths and Teflon tanks. Rotary wafer etching systems are available as are vacuum metal etchers and stainless steel solvent stations. Baths can be sub-ambient, ambient or temperature controlled. Stations can be manual, semi-automatic or fully automated. In each case, controls and automation deliver a precise and reliable setting of variables and excellent repeatability of process steps.

Modutek’s extensive experience in developing wet processing equipment and on-going efforts to develop advanced process systems provide customers with superior performance with lower cost of ownership. For a free quote or consultation on selecting the right equipment for your manufacturing 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.

Why High Temperature Quartz Baths Are Required for Silicon Wafer Cleaning

Silicon wafers undergo many process steps during the manufacture of semiconductor components and cleaning the wafers properly is an important factor in successful fabrication. Process steps include etching and diffusion, both of which involve coating the wafer with masking material to guide the etching chemicals or diffusion targets. Once a step is completed, the masking chemicals have to be completely removed. If traces remain or if other impurities are introduced, the quality of the final semiconductor product will be affected.

Silicon wafers are cleaned with aggressive chemicals to remove organic masking material and other possible contaminants. As a result, the cleaning solution container has to be able to resist the action of corrosive chemicals while remaining inert without becoming a source of contamination itself. Baths made of quartz are highly stable, resist corrosion and can be designed and built to avoid contamination. Quartz baths are an ideal solution to the challenges of silicon wafer cleaning and the maintaining of high levels of wafer cleanliness.

How Quartz Baths Clean Silicon Wafers

Quartz baths provide a clean and safe container for the chemical reactions that are used in silicon wafer cleaning. Depending on the materials used, the quartz bath may simply hold the wafers and the cleaning chemicals, but some processes require heating, circulating the solution or the addition of chemicals. In each case, the control actions must be accurate, reliable and easily duplicated.

For example, materials such as hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide may be used for cleaning the silicon wafers. Quartz is impervious to these strong chemicals and the quartz tanks remain unaffected while the acids clean the silicon wafers. With SPM clean, sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide are mixed and maintained at a constant temperature of about 130 degrees centigrade. Periodic spiking with hydrogen peroxide is necessary because it decomposes in the solution. The mixture cleans wafers rapidly but can’t attack the quartz bath container.

Using bath containers that are inert and don’t contaminate is important because the electrical and physical structures making up modern semiconductor components are extremely sensitive to contaminating particles. As these structures become smaller and more tightly packed on a wafer, even a single particle can interfere with the etching or the diffusion process. Such interference from particles reduces the yield of semiconductor components and affects the productivity of the semiconductor manufacturing facility.

The Benefits of Using Modutek’s Quartz Baths

Modutek has over 30 years experience in quartz bath design and manufacture so that the company’s baths fulfill all the basic requirements for semiconductor processing and deliver additional benefits. Modutek can provide standard units where they satisfy customer requirements but can also design and build custom systems for special applications.

Modutek’s QFa series high temperature re-circulating quartz baths are safe and reliable with a low total cost of ownership. The semiconductor grade quartz of the baths is flame polished to reduce contamination and the vessels are designed for an especially long service life. Particle addition from re-circulating flow is kept to a minimum and remote control is available. Tank sizes range from an inner measurement of 7.75 x 7.75 inches and 9 inches high to 21.5 x 11.5 inches and 10.5 inches high. Custom sizes are available as well.

The QFa baths have an integrated heater that provides an operating range of 30 to 180 degrees centigrade. The heaters produce a temperature rise of 2 degrees per minute and control accuracy is plus/minus 1 degree centigrade, these variables depending on the operating conditions. The wide temperature range, fast thermal response and accurate temperature control make the Modutek quartz baths ideal for silicon wafer cleaning. The high precision guarantees excellent repeatability of the process between batches and the fast heating rate reduces process times. Overall, Modutek’s quartz baths can help improve the semiconductor production performance of manufacturing facilities and research labs. For a free quote or consultation on selecting the right equipment for your manufacturing process contact Modutek at 866-803-1533.

Reviewed and Approved by Douglas Wagner
President & CEO, Modutek Corporation

Improving Silicon Wafer Cleaning with the Piranha Etch Process

The Piranha etch process removes organic material from silicon wafers rapidly and completely. Semiconductor manufacturing involves the repeated etching and cleaning of the silicon wafers and the Piranha mixture is a favorite method for the resist strip of wafers to prepare them for further processing. Modutek can provide high temperature re-circulating and constant temperature quartz baths and the company has developed a new “bleed and feed” control method to improve the silicon wafer cleaning process.

Modutek Quartz Baths for Piranha Etch

Modutek quartz baths are based on extensive experience and the use of the highest quality materials. The baths themselves are made of virgin boron-free fused quartz in a flame-retardant polypropylene housing. The QFa series is a high temperature re-circulating bath with a temperature range of 30 to 180 degrees centigrade while the Qa series is a constant temperature bath with the same temperature range.

Both bath series are temperature controlled to plus/minus 1 degree centigrade with a heat-up rate of 2 degrees centigrade per minute. Process control can be fully automated, semi-automatic or manual. The baths are available in a variety of sizes and Modutek will construct custom units as required. The units are ideal for Piranha etch applications because of their quick and even heating, accurate temperature control and extended vessel life.

Improving Piranha Process Control

The Piranha process uses an aggressive mixture of sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide to dissolve organic residue on the silicon wafers. The mixture is heated to about 130 degrees centigrade to improve the strip speed. Control of the cleaning is difficult because mixing sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide is exothermic and heats up the solution when the mixture is first prepared. As the mixture cools, it has to be heated to maintain its temperature and the strip rate.

The hydrogen peroxide in the mixture is unstable and decomposes to form water, diluting the mixture and slowing the strip rate. Heating the mixture increases the rate of decomposition of the hydrogen peroxide. To keep the concentration and the strip rate constant, the sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide mixture is periodically spiked with extra hydrogen peroxide. This addition keeps the strip rate elevated but the overall process is hard to control and the mixture has to be replaced completely about once per day. To improve the Piranha process and silicon wafer cleaning, the concentration and temperature variation issues have to be addressed.

The Modutek “Bleed and Feed” Process Control Method

Modutek has developed a method of improving control of the Piranha process by using a two tank system with a clean and a dirty tank. When the concentration of hydrogen peroxide goes down, a small amount of mixture from the dirty tank is drained and discarded. The drained amount is replaced from the clean tank. The stripping process can continue and the concentration is maintained at the desired level. The clean tank has its sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide replenished. All “feed and bleed” amounts are programmable to match specific process variables.

Benefits of the Process Change

The “bleed and feed” control method can be fully automated and the frequent addition of small amounts of sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide mixture keeps the strip rate constant and allows for continuous use of the mixture over an extended period of time. The benefits include:

  • Savings of chemicals can reach 75 percent while chemical purchase and disposal costs are correspondingly lower.
  • Process efficiency is increased due to less downtime for replacement of the chemicals.
  • Process results are improved due to a more constant strip rate.

As a leading semiconductor equipment manufacturer, Modutek provides customers with high quality equipment that offers the highest degree of process control. Modutek supports the new “bleed and feed” process change for Piranha strip in the company’s new wet bench stations. Call for a free consultation to discuss your specific process requirements.

Reviewed and Approved by Douglas Wagner
President & CEO, Modutek Corporation

Why Pre-Diffusion Cleans Are Important for Silicon Wafer Cleaning

Why Pre-Diffusion Cleans Are Important for Silicon Wafer CleaningPre-diffusion cleans are carried out several times during the semiconductor manufacturing process, and each time the chemical residues and particles on the wafers have to be removed as completely as possible. If silicon wafers still have surface contamination when they are placed in the diffusion oven, diffusion may be uneven and the resulting semiconductor products may be defective.

The several methods available for wafer cleaning either use chemical baths or Megasonic cleaners to remove surface contaminants from the silicon wafers. Modutek offers a complete line of wet bench stations that support pre-diffusion wafer cleaning as well as other semiconductor fabrication processes.

The Importance of the Pre-Diffusion Wafer Cleaning Process

The contamination with particles on silicon wafer surfaces prior to diffusion is a key factor in reducing the yield of electronic components in semiconductor fabrication plants and research facilities. Particles may be diffused into the silicon and create electric defects or they may block diffusion behind the particle. After diffusion, particles may affect etching and interfere with microscopic conductors. The resulting electronic components may have to be scrapped.

As microscopic structures in silicon become smaller and more detailed, large particles become more disruptive on both an electrical and the physical scale. Even tiny particles that were previously considered unimportant can affect the smallest silicon structures. When electronic products are defective, it affects facility productivity and reduces throughput. Performance is lower and profitability is reduced. In some cases, the products are not defective but their life expectancy may be reduced and the manufacturer’s reputation is affected. An effective pre-diffusion wafer cleaning process results in fewer defects and a higher quality output.

How Pre-Diffusion Cleaning is Carried Out

Before being placed in the diffusion oven, silicon wafers are immersed in chemical or Megasonic baths. Surface impurities are dislodged, dissolved or chemically neutralized. Complete cleaning may take more than one process and the following methods are commonly used.

RCA cleaning is a popular method consisting of two components, SC1 and SC2, where the SC stands for standard clean. For SC1, the wafers are immersed in a solution of ammonium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide. The aggressive chemicals remove all organic compounds from the wafer surfaces but may leave traces of metallic contamination. As a result, during SC2, the wafers are placed in a mixture of hydrochloric acid and hydrogen peroxide that removes any remaining metal ions.

An alternative to the RCA standard clean methods is the Piranha clean, especially useful for applications with heavy wafer contamination. It consists of a sulfuric and hydrogen peroxide mixture that rapidly removes material such as photo resist. A further feature of Piranha clean is the hydroxylation of the silicon wafer surface, making it hydrophilic or attractive to water, a characteristic useful for some subsequent process steps.

Megasonic cleaning uses high-frequency sound waves in a cleaning solution to dislodge contaminants from the surface of the silicon wafer. This cleaning method does not use harsh chemicals, and a generator is used to produce a signal in the MHz range at a specified power level. A transducer in the cleaning tank converts the signal to sound waves in water. The sound waves create microscopic cavitation bubbles with a strong scrubbing action that removes particles. Depending on the manufacturing process, semiconductor manufacturing facilities use one of these methods for pre-diffusion cleaning.

Modutek Pre-Diffusion Cleaning Equipment

Modutek’s wet bench chemical stations provide a complete range of pre-diffusion cleaning solutions. The company can offer equipment that supports each of the above cleaning methods as well as other semiconductor fabrication processes. All of Modutek’s pre-diffusion cleaning baths produce silicon wafers with extremely low particle counts while all of the company’s equipment is designed for high quality output, fast processing and efficient operation resulting in superior manufacturing facility performance. Contact Modutek for a free consultation or quote on equipment designed to meet specific manufacturing requirements.

Reviewed and Approved by Douglas Wagner
President & CEO, Modutek Corporation

 

How Customized Equipment Has Improved the Silicon Wafer Cleaning Process

Different customized systems or custom components may improve silicon wafer cleaning processes because customers have special requirements or because the process characteristics are unusual. Suppliers taking on such projects must have extensive in-house experience and expertise together with a board line of silicon wafer cleaning equipment to provide custom solutions. When customization is required, effective solutions can improve throughput, lower costs, and result in higher output quality and yield. Modutek has both the experience and in-house expertise required to offer such customized equipment.

Customized Software

Modutek’s SolidWorks Simulation Professional and SolidWorks Flow Simulation software allows customers to calculate chemical doses accurately as well as track chemical usage. Such calculations are especially important for custom installations because the inputs and the values obtained may be non-standard. Modutek develops and writes all its own software so the company can make adjustments and implement software customization whenever it’s required by a customer. This means that customers can rely on software that corresponds to their customized systems rather than trying to operate a custom system with standard software. Modutek’s software can tailored to precisely control and monitor even the most customized installations.

Custom-Fit Equipment

A lot of the equipment that goes into a silicon wafer cleaning installation has to fit into an existing space or fit other limiting installation parameters. Such custom-fit equipment may include:

  • Megasonic systems
  • Teflon tanks
  • Quartz baths
  • or other custom equipment

Modutek can build custom versions of these components to fit any existing or new wet process system to optimize the silicon wafer cleaning process. Megasonic cleaning systems can be customized for frequency and power while tanks can be sized according to custom requirements and can be fitted with heaters or re-circulating pumps as required. In each case, Modutek can analyze the silicon wafer cleaning application and recommend the most appropriate solution.

Custom Wet Bench Station Design

When preparing a custom wet bench station design, Modutek first looks at the process specifications. The software, chemical delivery systems, baths and wafer handling must all fit together to satisfy the process requirements. Sometimes customized components can be used in a standard configuration but at other times specially designed components may be arranged in a custom system.

This approach provides end-user flexibility while respecting customer specifications and ensuring that the equipment performs as expected. All systems are designed and built at Modutek’s company facilities based on their own in-house expertise and experience.

Customized Wet Process Systems

Wet process systems can be customized at the component or system level, but they can also feature customized levels of automation. Standard systems are manual, semi-automatic or fully automatic but special solutions are always possible. Customers may want a manual system but also want certain process sub-steps to run automatically. A customer may want the handling of hazardous chemicals to be fully automated for safety reasons but want the rest of the process to be manual. On the other hand, a fully automatic system may have a requirement for operator intervention at a specific point. Because Modutek designs these systems in-house, such customization is seamless and problem-free.

Customized wet process systems can find application in many research and industrial fields. A customized system is often needed for prototype development and testing since the prototype can have unusual or unique features. Cutting-edge research and development in industry or at universities may also require the special characteristics available from customized systems. Even full production manufacturing facilities may need customization if they want to try special cost-cutting or quality-enhancing production methods. In each case Modutek can analyze the requirements and propose solutions.

With over 35 years of experience in wet process technology, Modutek has pioneered customization as a tool for improving silicon wafer cleaning processes and continues to develop unique customized solutions for its customers. If you need a customized solution for your application contact Modutek for a free consultation or quote.

How Silicon Wet Etching Processes Are Improved with Specialized Equipment

how-silicon-wet-etching-processes-are-improved-with-specialized-equipmentWhile Modutek’s wet bench equipment supports all common wet etching processes, the continuous development of new wet bench technologies allows the company to offer specialized equipment that can improve performance for specific applications. Key factors for high output quality, fast processing, high yields and reliable outcomes are cleanliness, repeatability, tight control and precise dosages. Modutek’s standard line of silicon wet etching equipment already scores highly on these factors but the company’s specialized equipment can further improve performance for certain processes.

Buffered Oxide Etch (BOE)

The BOE process requires tight and precise temperature control while filtering lowers the particulate count and reduced acid consumption results in lower costs. Modutek’s F-series sub-ambient circulation bath is specially designed for BOE applications and addresses these factors. The temperature controller is accurate to less than plus/minus one degree centigrade in a range from 10 to 60 degrees centigrade with sub-ambient capability. The circulating bath includes 10.0 to 0.2 micron filtration and is designed for low acid consumption. Using a wet bench system specialized for the BOE process can reduce costs and defects in products while providing safe and reliable operation.

Piranha Etching

The sulfuric acid/hydrogen peroxide mixture of the Piranha solution is extremely corrosive, and the mixture is exothermic when first prepared. The Modutek QFa Series of Quartz High Temperature Recirculating Baths are ideal for withstanding the high temperatures, first of the initial heating after mixing and then during the process that is heated to preserve mixture reactivity. The baths have heaters that can raise the temperature of the mixture by two degrees Centigrade per minute and the temperature controller can maintain the temperature at plus/minus one degree centigrade over a range of 30 to 180 degrees centigrade. These Modutek quartz baths are characterized by the high degree of safety, reliable operation and low cost of ownership.

Potassium Hydroxide (KOH) Etching

Modutek Teflon tanks are ideal for use in KOH etching because they can be custom fitted to any wet bench configuration and come in three models to satisfy common heating and recirculating requirements. The TFa and TI series of Teflon tanks are temperature controlled to an accuracy of plus/minus 0.5 degrees centigrade over a range of 30 to 100 degrees centigrade. The TFa series are overflow re-circulating models while the TI series are static. The TT series are static ambient temperature models. All Teflon tanks are made from PFA Teflon with special welding techniques to minimize the presence of undesirable by-products in the process and to reduce contamination. Modutek’s Teflon tanks improve KOH process control, increasing reliability and reproducibility of process conditions.

Silicon Nitride Etching

Etching silicon nitride with a phosphoric acid deionized water mixture is challenging because the concentration changes as the deionized water evaporates and because adding water to the process can cause an explosion. Modutek’s silicon nitride wet etching bath is specially designed to address these issues and provide reliable and safe process control. The mixture is kept at the boiling point, which changes as the concentration increases. Depending on the temperature of the mixture, small amounts of deionized water are added to the boiling mixture to maintain the concentration at the required level. Using the boiling point temperature as an indication of the concentration and allowing the boiling mixture to immediately distribute small amounts of water lets Modutek control the process while maintaining safe operation.

With its extensive experience in silicon wet etching process technology, Modutek can deliver specialized equipment suited to a particular process and help customers select the right equipment for their applications. With equipment specially designed for the process used, customers obtain superior results while often saving money as well. Contact Modutek for a free consultation or quote on using the right silicon wet etching equipment for your application.

 

New SPM Process Provides 75% Improvement in Chemical Savings

new-spm-process-provides-75-improvement-in-chemical-savings2

Earlier this year Modutek started implementing its new SPM process with automatic adjustment of the sulfuric peroxide mix concentration and the company now has benchmark results from real process applications. Normally the SPM mixture deteriorates continuously as the hydrogen peroxide turns to water and dilutes the concentration. The SPM mixture has to be completely replaced every eight hours or so at the outside. Costs are substantial for downtime during new mixture pour and for the replacement of the chemicals as well as for neutralizing and disposing of the corrosive mixture in an environmentally safe way. Trying to lengthen the period during which an SPM mixture can be used has been an ongoing process for many companies but without results that provide a safe and reliable alternative.

In the Modutek “Bleed and Feed” system, a “dirty” tank and a “clean” tank are used to continuously compensate for changes in the mixture concentration caused by the degradation of hydrogen peroxide. Periodically when needed, a programmable amount of mixture is drained from the dirty tank and another programmable amount of mixture is automatically transferred from the clean tank to the dirty tank. To compensate, an appropriate amount of sulfuric acid is added to the clean tank and both tanks receive enough hydrogen peroxide to restore the concentration. The “Bleed and Feed” process is designed to maintain the SPM mixture concentration automatically over extended periods.

Benchmark Results from a Real “Bleed and Feed” Application

One of Modutek’s customers that use their semiconductor manufacturing equipment now has real-life results from the use of the company’s “Bleed and Feed” SPM process improvements. The results show significant reductions in chemical use, downtime for re-pour and disposal volumes. Detailed results are based on a 2 6-inch carrier bath size with an 8-hour shift and are as follows:

  • Volume of sulfuric acid used reduced by 77%
  • Chemical disposal volume reduced by 75%
  • Acid neutralizer use reduced
  • Acid re-agent use and cost reduced
  • No downtime to drain and re-pour
  • System drains reduced from three times a day to once a week
  • Increased throughput
  • No original process result changes
  • Increased safety due to less operator interaction with dangerous chemicals

While other companies have tried to develop other SPM clean process improvements involving less chemical use, Modutek’s system is now proven to provide excellent results in real life applications and operate reliably.

Improved SPM Process in Custom Designed Systems

While Modutek has developed a greatly improved method for maintaining SPM process mixture concentrations and reducing chemical use, the new method can be applied in any custom-designed SPM process wet bench. Modutek designs and assembles wet bench products and semiconductor manufacturing equipment at their facility in San Jose, California and can supply systems that exactly meet its customers’ requirements.

Process engineers and facility managers concerned about the environmental impact of high toxic chemical use and the increasing costs of chemicals such as sulfuric acid can contact Modutek for a free quote or consultation to discuss solutions to these issues. Modutek can suggest wet bench systems and follow up with proposals from their complete line of wet bench products. If the SPM process is needed by a customer, Modutek now has the benchmark results on reduced chemical use and improved facility operation.

 

Why Teflon Tanks Are Used with the KOH Etching Process

KOH etching is a preferred silicon wafer fabrication method because it works rapidly and reliably while handling of the chemicals is relatively safe. The process relies on a contamination-free environment and uses the temperature and KOH concentration to control the etching speed. Teflon tanks are used in this process because the Teflon is stable and doesn’t degrade. The KOH etching process controls allow accurate and repeatable temperature control for reliable fabrication results and high-quality production. KOH etching in Teflon tanks with temperature control is an excellent process for silicon wafer nanostructure fabrication in both manufacturing facilities and research environments.

How KOH Etching Works

KOH or potassium hydroxide etches silicon quickly and at a constant rate that depends on the concentration of the solution and the temperature of the liquid. In addition to these controllable variables, silicon etching is influenced by the crystal planes of the silicon and the doping concentration. These factors can be used to direct etching in certain directions and to stop etching at given points. The result is that KOH etching can produce the precise nanostructures needed as long as the crystal planes and doping are used correctly.

The controllable variables have to be kept tightly to set values and variations have to be minimized. Important factors are the maintenance of the KOH solution at the desired concentration and temperature. The Teflon tanks have to be designed to support the consistent and accurate etching necessary for defect-free wafer fabrication.

Modutek Teflon Tank Features

Modutek Teflon tanks are designed to support KOH etching leading to wafer fabrication of the highest quality. The temperature-controlled tanks are available in re-circulating and static versions and come in standard sizes for single or double carrier capacities as well as in custom sizes when required. The re-circulating tanks have an all-Teflon fluid path, and in the available custom configurations, are easy to integrate into existing fabrication lines.

Modutek Teflon tanks eliminate contamination from the tanks or fluid paths by ensuring the KOH solution only comes into contact with Teflon, which in unaffected by the corrosive chemical. In addition, Teflon welding for the tanks is carried out with advanced PFA sheet welding techniques that reduce impurities and by-products. The result is that the KOH solution stays pure.

A key element of the KOH etching process control is the initial concentration of the KOH solution and keeping it constant throughout the process step. Modutek Teflon tanks have sealed lids that minimize water loss, even during lengthy etching. Water condensing systems and de-ionized water spiking systems are available if the application requires it.

The other variable affecting the etch rate is the temperature of the KOH solution. Modutek tanks have either inline heating or immersion heating in the overflow weir. Temperature can be controlled between 30 and 100 degrees Centigrade with an accuracy of plus/minus 0.5 degrees Centigrade. Heating is rapid with an average heat-up rate of 2 to 3 degrees Centigrade per minute depending on the details of the installation. Rapid heating and tight control result in superior etching performance and consistent output.

To make operation of the KOH etching flexible and convenient, the Modutek Teflon tanks systems have standard drain interlocks and low level, high limit, and high-temperature alarms. Temperature process controllers and remote operation timers are also available.

Modutek Teflon KOH tanks are designed specifically for applications such as KOH etching and Modutek can supply custom systems specially adapted to customer requirements. Tank sizes and controls can be designed to match customer applications. Modutek can rely on its experience and expertise to supply KOH etching systems that meet the highest quality standards and deliver the best output possible.

 

Why Particle Removal is Essential in Silicon Wafer Cleaning

During silicon wafer processing, impurities and particles are deposited on wafer surfaces or are left over from previous process steps. Such particles can cause defects in the final semiconductor product. With the reduced size of today’s silicon wafer microstructures, even the tiniest particles can block etching and affect the diffusion processes. The result appears in the final semiconductor circuit as either as a defect or reduce quality and life expectancy of the product. As a result, the focus of many wafer cleaning operations is to leave the silicon wafer surface intact but free of contaminating particles.

How Particles are Removed from Silicon Wafer Surfaces

The removal of particles can be difficult because they often have a chemical or electrostatic affinity for the silicon surface. They are attracted to the silicon wafer because of electrostatic charges and specific mechanisms have to be used to dislodge and remove them. The smaller the particle, the more such attraction may play a role and the harder it is to remove every particle from the wafer.

Mechanisms to remove particles include silicon wafer cleaning with a chemical that reacts with the particles, cleaning with a solution that dissolves the particles or washing the particles from the wafer surface. In each case, a specific type of equipment is required and traditional standard processes can be used together with new technologies aimed at removing even the smallest particles.

Cleaning Processes

Many chemical processes used to clean silicon wafers have remained unchanged since they were first used 30 years ago. These methods use aggressive chemicals to remove contamination from the wafers, which are then rinsed with de-ionized water and dried. These methods remove most of the contaminants but are less effective in removing the smallest particles. Refined older methods and new technologies such as megasonic cleaning are now often used to complete the cleaning process.

Cleaning methods used at different stages of the silicon wafer fabrication process include the following:

  • The RCA clean process, often carried out in two steps called SC1 and SC2, prepares a wafer for further processing. SC1 cleans wafers with a mixture of ammonium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide to remove organic residue. SC2 uses hydrochloric acid and hydrogen peroxide to remove metallic residues and particles.
  • The Piranha cleaning process removes large amounts of organic residue such as photoresist. It uses sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide in a particularly corrosive mixture that acts quickly but must be handled with care.
  • Megasonic cleaning dislodges particles and other contaminants using microscopic cavitation bubbles generated by a megasonic cleaning system. The bubbles form and collapse in time with the MHz sound waves, delivering a scrubbing action that overcomes particle attraction to the silicon wafer surface.
  • The Ozone cleaning process uses ozone to convert organic particles and contaminants to carbon dioxide. All organic traces on a wafer surface are completely removed, leaving the silicon wafer free from particles.

One of the most critical processes for silicon wafer cleaning is the pre-diffusion clean process that takes place just before the wafers are placed in the diffusion oven. Any of the above methods or a combination of cleaning methods can be used to ensure that wafers are free of particles and the diffusion will be even and consistent.

Equipment Used for Wafer Cleaning

Modutek’s wet bench technology supports all the above cleaning methods and can be provided within their manual, semi-automated or fully automatic systems. The company can offer equipment for traditional cleaning and for the new megasonic and ozone methods as well. All cleaning equipment is available in standard configurations but Modutek can also design custom products to meet the needs of any of their customers’ silicon wafer cleaning requirements. If you need highly reliable equipment to support your semiconductor manufacturing processes call Modutek for a free consultation or quote at 866-803-1533 or email [email protected].