Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in May 2015 and has been updated with new information and re-posted in August 2023.
The semiconductor manufacturing industry relies heavily on complex and precise processes to create electronic components we rely on every day. One such process is wafer cleaning – an essential step that removes unwanted particles or residue from silicon wafer surfaces that could otherwise compromise product quality or reliability. RCA Clean has been established as an industry standard wafer cleaning process due to its effectiveness in removing both organic and inorganic contaminants from silicon wafer surfaces.
RCA clean is a wet chemical process developed at Radio Corporation of America that involves a series of sequential steps. The objective is to prepare wafer surfaces for further processing while maintaining their integrity, an aim that aligns directly with the needs of Process Engineers.
Process Engineers focus on cost efficiency, reliability and cleanliness, and equipment design for precise process control. Equipment must be easy to use and deliver repeatable processes while meeting specific demands of a facility’s wet processes requirements.
Understanding RCA Clean in a Wet Bench Process
At its core, RCA Clean is a three-step cleaning process aimed at effectively cleaning silicon wafers. Each step addresses different types of contaminants, such as organic residues, thin layers of native oxide, and finally, ionic contamination.
In the first stage of RCA cleaning, commonly referred to as Standard Clean 1 (SC-1), the mixture consists of:
- 1 part NH4OH (ammonium hydroxide)
- 1 part H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide)
- 5 parts deionized (DI) water.
The SC-1 solution efficiently removes organic residues while simultaneously creating a thin silicon dioxide coating to provide additional protection to the wafer surface. The second step is to rinse with deionized water to remove the SC-1 solution.
Next, a dip into hydrochloric acid and deionized water mixture removes the thin oxide layer formed during Step One. Following this, the Standard Clean 2 (SC-2) begins. This mixture consists of:
- 1 part HCl (hydrochloric acid)
- 1 part H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide)
- 5 parts DI water
This step helps remove metallic ions and again forms a thin silicon dioxide layer. The process concludes with another rinse and final dip into deionized water heated to 80°C to remove any remaining residuals.
RCA Clean is essential when it comes to achieving cleanliness, consistency, and process control in semiconductor manufacturing. However, the effectiveness of RCA Clean depends on the reliability of the equipment being used. This means using equipment that effectively supports RCA clean and ensures accurate and repeatable results for process engineers.
How Wet Bench Stations Facilitate RCA Clean
Modutek’s wet bench stations have been carefully designed to enhance the RCA clean process and alleviate some of the challenges Process Engineers encounter. Their design places particular importance on chemical compatibility, cleanliness, control, and safety – essential characteristics for successful wafer cleaning.
The wet bench stations at Modutek builds use materials resistant to the chemicals used in the RCA clean process. This ensures that the equipment remains unaffected by the cleaning solutions, allowing for an uninterrupted process and a longer lifespan.
As for cleanliness, Modutek’s stations are designed to minimize particle contamination. Their design limits air movement and deposition of particulate matter. Additionally, all wet bench station components, including process tanks, are designed for easy cleaning, ensuring optimal cleanliness at all times.
Modutek’s stations feature advanced automation capabilities for process control. These automated systems offer high-precision control over process variables like temperature, cleaning time, and concentration of cleaning solutions. This ensures accurate and repeatable RCA clean results while saving time and minimizing human errors. Process Engineers can use this level of oversight to achieve their desired results consistently while saving time and avoiding human mistakes.
The wet bench stations Modutek provides incorporate numerous safety features that promote maximum protection during semiconductor manufacturing processes. This includes chemical-resistant materials, fire suppression systems, safety interlocks, and emergency power-off capabilities.
One way that Modutek’s wet bench systems use to facilitate the RCA clean process is through their temperature control system. For instance, for optimal cleaning results in the RCA Clean process, the SC-1 and SC-2 solutions must be maintained at specific temperatures to work effectively. Modutek’s wet bench stations have been specifically designed to precisely control the temperature of solutions, ensuring an optimal cleaning process.
Incorporating Megasonic Cleaning with RCA Clean
To further enhance the results of an RCA clean process, the use of Megasonic cleaning can be instrumental. Megasonic cleaning utilizes high-frequency sound waves in a liquid medium to generate microscopic cavitation bubbles. When these microscopic bubbles collapse, they create strong local shockwaves that efficiently dislodge and remove contaminants from silicon wafer surfaces. Megasonic cleaning combined with the RCA process can significantly enhance the silicon wafer cleaning process, offering the precision necessary for creating high-quality semiconductor devices with microscopic geometries.
Modutek’s wet bench systems are designed to incorporate Megasonic cleaning seamlessly. Wet process equipment with Megasonic capabilities can operate at multiple frequencies, allowing Process Engineers to optimize the cleaning process for their specific requirements. This provides optimal particle removal, improved cleanliness, and higher yield without damaging wafers or creating defects. With the integration of Megasonic cleaning, Modutek’s wet bench systems provide a better-optimized solution for wafer cleaning.
Cost Efficiency and Ease of Use with Modutek’s Wet Bench Stations
While cleanliness and process control are essential to Process Engineers, cost efficiency and ease of use should be considered when selecting equipment for wet bench processes. Modutek’s wet bench stations are designed with the end user in mind. They provide high-quality, reliable results at an exceptional value proposition. Modutek recognizes the importance of cost control for semiconductor manufacturing facilities and offers solutions that enhance productivity while reducing the total cost of ownership.
The robust construction and quality of Modutek’s wet bench stations extend their lifespan, meaning fewer replacement costs over time and reduced frequency of replacements. Furthermore, their precise control enables businesses to reduce waste while improving yield for higher profits and increased profitability.
Modutek’s wet bench stations are also designed for maximum operator convenience. The intuitive user interface and clear control parameters enable Process Engineers and equipment technicians to master operations quickly, reducing the learning curve and training time. This easy operation also reduces human errors that could otherwise result in costly process defects.
In addition, Modutek stands behind its products by offering top-tier customer service and maintenance support. This helps facilities maintain productivity with minimal downtime for their equipment. Modutek is dedicated to ensuring minimal equipment downtime to maximize productivity for customers. Modutek also provides on-site service, technical support, and spare parts to address any potential issues promptly and effectively.
The need for meticulous and consistent wafer cleaning in semiconductor manufacturing is paramount, and the RCA clean method, combined with Megasonic cleaning, provides an effective solution for ensuring optimal cleanliness. However, the success of these processes relies heavily upon the equipment utilized.
Modutek’s wet bench systems are carefully designed with precision, ease of use, and cost efficiency in mind, making them an ideal choice for the RCA cleaning process. They address key requirements and challenges faced by Process Engineers, such as chemical compatibility and effective process controls, as well as providing safety and maintenance support.
For Process Engineers seeking reliable, effective, and easy-to-use solutions for their wet process requirements, Modutek provides leading-edge solutions. With a strong track record and expert service, Modutek is a trusted name in the semiconductor manufacturing industry. Contact Modutek to schedule a free consultation to discuss your wafer cleaning process requirements.