Improving Standard Clean Particle Removal in a Wet Bench Process

When silicon wafer yields are not improved with the Standard Clean process, improved particle removal can be achieved with advanced processing equipment. Standard Clean or RCA clean was developed by the RCA company in 1965 and it has changed little since then. It has always been successful in cleaning wafers and removing most particles. However, with silicon circuits and structures decreasing in size and product density on wafers increasing, even the tiniest particles can cause device defects.

RCA clean works by first dissolving and removing organic materials from the surface of the wafers using powerful chemicals. In a second step, metallic impurities are removed and the wafer is rinsed clean. The two-step process and the rinsing remove most particles but the smallest particles often remain attached to the wafer with surface tension and electrostatic charges. Such particles can affect diffusion in wafers or block the etching of electronic structures or circuit paths.

The submicron particles are hard to remove completely with chemicals or by rinsing. The use of megasonic cleaning technology to generate very high-frequency sound waves in the wafer bath provides the capability to dislodge all remaining particles, allowing them to be rinsed away. Megasonic cleaning improves Standard Clean particle removal process and helps ensure defect-free production of microscopic structures on the silicon wafer.

How Megasonic Cleaning Works to Improve Standard Clean Particle Removal

The two steps making up the RCA wafer cleaning process are SC1, using a mixture of ammonium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide, and SC2, using a mixture of hydrochloric acid and hydrogen peroxide. The SC1 process removes most of the contamination from the silicon wafer surface, but introduces metallic ion contaminants that can influence subsequent wafer processing steps. The SC2 process dissolves the remaining contaminants, allowing impurities to be rinsed away as they float to the surface of the cleaning mixture.

Standard Clean takes place in heated inert tanks such as quartz baths that are carefully designed to limit additional contamination. The chemical mixtures are heated to about 80 degrees centigrade and processing takes about 10 minutes for each step. After rinsing, the silicon wafers are clean but may still have an unacceptable number of submicron particles adhering to the wafer surfaces.

Megasonic cleaning can remove the majority of these particles while also dislodging the few larger particles that may still be present. The process involves adding a megasonic transducer to the tank holding the wafers. The transducer converts very high-frequency signals from a megasonic generator into sound waves that travel through the rinsing water to strike the wafer surfaces. Sound wave frequencies are typically at or above 1 MHz but may range as low as 200 kHz depending on the specific cleaning application.

As the sound waves travel through water, they create microscopic cavitation bubbles that form and burst in tune with the sound wave frequency. When the bubbles burst, they produce tiny but intense jets of water. The jets from the bubbles near the wafer surfaces dislodge any remaining particles, leaving them to be rinsed away at the surface of the bath, for example via an overflow weir. The additional Megasonic Cleaning step is very effective in particle removal because the tiny jets break any bonds that make the particles adhere to the wafer. The result is extremely low particle counts on wafers that undergo both the RCA wafer cleaning process and Megasonic Cleaning.

Modutek Designs and Builds Specialized Equipment to Improve Wet Bench Processes

Megasonic Cleaning is one example of Modutek’s implementation of designs and technologies that improve wet process performance for their customers. For over forty years Modutek has been providing specialized semiconductor manufacturing equipment to meet unique industry needs. As a leading semiconductor equipment manufacturer, the company offers free consulting and can provide recommendations on equipment from its complete product lines. When Modutek supplies wet bench equipment to customers, the company follows a well-defined process to ensure their equipment performance meets customer requirements.

The Importance of Pre-Diffusion Cleans in Silicon Wafer Cleaning

The Importance of Pre-Diffusion Cleans in Silicon Wafer CleaningWhen wafer cleaning immediately prior to diffusion is effective, semiconductor manufacturing output is of high quality and the defect rate is reduced. A major pre-occupation of pre-diffusion cleaning is the removal of microscopic particles from the surface of the silicon wafer. Particles can prevent even diffusion and may themselves be diffused into the silicon, causing defects.

Silicon wafer cleaning can be carried out in chemical baths or with megasonic cleaning systems. Several cleaning steps using different processes are sometimes required to get a specific level of cleanliness. The goal is to obtain wafers free from metallic or organic contamination and with as few surface particles as possible. As silicon microstructures are designed with smaller elements and with a higher component density, adequate wafer cleaning becomes more and more critical.

RCA Clean Uses Two Steps to Remove Organic and Metallic Contamination

RCA clean uses ammonium hydroxide, hydrogen peroxide and hydrochloric acid to remove surface contaminants from the silicon wafer. In the Standard Clean 1 (SC1) process, the wafers are placed in a mixture of ammonium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide. The corrosive mixture removes organic matter but may leave metal ions behind.

In the Standard Clean 2 (SC2) process, the remaining metallic traces are removed by immersing the wafers in a mixture of hydrochloric acid and hydrogen peroxide. At the end of the RCA wafer cleaning process, organic and metallic contamination has been removed while as many remaining particles as possible are rinsed away as well.

Piranha Clean Removes Heavy Organic Contamination

When wafers are heavily contaminated with organic materials such as photo resist, the Piranha process cleans more quickly than RCA clean. The wafers are immersed in a mixture of sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide and the mixture may be heated to speed up the reaction. The piranha clean process hydroxilates the wafer surface, making it hydrophilic. This affinity for water is sometimes a useful feature for additional cleaning measures.

Megasonic Cleaning Removes Contaminants and Particles

Megasonic cleaning avoids the use of corrosive chemicals and is especially effective for dislodging microscopic particles from the wafer surface. The Megasonic process works by generating high-frequency sound waves in the cleaning bath. An ultrasonic generator produces the high-frequency electronic signal and a transducer converts the signal into sound waves that travel through the cleaning solution. The sound waves create tiny cavitation bubbles that produce a scrubbing action against the wafer surface. The action of the bubbles cleans the wafer.

Microscopic contaminating particles adhere to the wafer and are difficult to remove. With integrated circuits featuring increasingly smaller geometries, even the tiniest particles can cause defects. Megasonic silicon wafer cleaning operates in the frequency range near or above 1 MHz and the cavitation bubbles agitate the cleaning solution at the operating frequency. Such agitation breaks the bond holding the particle on the wafer surface and the floating particles can be rinsed away.

Modutek Wet Bench Equipment Supports Pre-Diffusion Cleaning Methods

RCA, Piranha and Megasonic cleans are commonly used in pre-diffusion clean, but each fabrication facility optimizes for its own sequence of semiconductor manufacturing processes. A production line may use one or several cleaning methods, and may have special requirements for production parameters such as size, temperature or timing.

Modutek designs and builds its own complete line of wet bench equipment and can advise customers on choosing the best processing stations for their applications. Ideal solutions often require extensive customization to optimize yield and reduce costs to a minimum. Modutek can provide custom solutions including pre-diffusion cleans, and can design new equipment for integration into the customer’s manufacturing line to meet specific wafer processing requirements.

Using the Advanced Ozone Cleaning Process to Improve Wafer Yields

Using the Advanced Ozone Cleaning Process to Improve Wafer YieldsTwo key goals for semiconductor manufacturers are to increase process yields and to reduce chemical usage. Wet process semiconductor manufacturing is sensitive to wafer contamination by microscopic particles that increase final product rejection rates and reduce output quality. The ozone cleaning process can reduce particle counts and improve wafer yields by reducing the number of defective products. At the same time, cleaning organic contaminants from the wafer with ozone reduces the use of expensive and toxic chemicals. Modutek’s Advanced Ozone Cleaning Process allows semiconductor manufacturing facilities to increase throughput and output quality while reducing operating costs.

How Advanced Ozone Cleaning Improves Wet Process Line Performance

Modutek’s Advanced Ozone Cleaning Process uses ozone to remove organic contaminants from the surfaces of silicon wafers during wet bench processing. Ozone is used with either room temperature acidic acid or chilled DI water to clean wafers without aggressive chemicals. In addition to saving money due to reduced use of chemicals, ozone cleaning takes less space and is faster than many chemical-based wet bench processes.

Ozone cleaning takes place in Modutek’s DryZone System. Modutek has developed the Coldstrip sub ambient process and the Organostrip process that operates at room temperature. Both ozone cleaning processes deliver reduced particle counts and increased yields.

The Coldstrip process operates at four to ten degrees centigrade and introduces ozone into the ozone chamber after the wafers have been rinsed with de-ionized water. The rinsing removes non-organic contamination while the ozone combines with the carbon of the organic contaminants to produce carbon dioxide. After completion of the Coldstrip process, the wafers are clean and almost particle-free.

In the Organostrip process, the wafers are rinsed with acidic acid containing ozone. The acidic acid used has extremely high ozone solubility and the high ozone level producing produces rapid decomposition and oxidation. The ambient temperature process eliminates the use of toxic chemicals and the process waste products are harmless.

The Modutek Advanced Ozone Cleaning Process Improves Performance While Saving Money

Modutek developed the Advanced Ozone Cleaning Process to achieve low particle counts and to reduce the use of harmful chemicals. Reduced particle counts are needed for the more compact architecture of modern semiconductors where a single particle can cause defects or lower component quality. Reduced use of chemicals is mandated by increasingly strict environmental regulations while chemical purchase, storage and disposal costs continue to rise. The patented Modutek Advanced Ozone Cleaning Process successfully addresses these issues.

Specific benefits from using the ozone cleaning process include the following:

  • Better wafer yields due to lower particle count
  • Savings from reduced use of chemicals
  • Compatibility with metal films
  • Safer work environment due to absence of toxic substances
  • More environmentally friendly operations
  • Space saving due to more compact equipment
  • No toxic waste disposal issues

Modutek’s Advanced Ozone Cleaning Process increases throughput due to shorter cleaning times and higher yields while cost savings due to reduced use of chemicals are substantial. Semiconductor manufacturers can improve the overall performance of their facility by incorporating Modutek’s DryZone cleaning stations in their wet process lines.

Modutek Can Help Customers with Innovative Solutions

The Advanced Ozone Cleaning Process is one example of Modutek’s initiatives to improve the performance of wet process technology stations and help customers address common problems. The patented process solves issues with current semiconductor manufacturing and helps customers with product quality and with their bottom line.

With Modutek’s emphasis on customer service and on working with customers to improve wet process technology, the company continues to be a leader among semiconductor equipment manufacturers. Customers can rely on Modutek to supply the equipment they need and to provide the support ensuring the equipment meets or exceeds performance expectations.

How Innovative Changes to the SPM Process Improves Results

How Innovative Changes to the SPM Process Improves ResultsWhen the SPM process requires frequent spiking with hydrogen peroxide, precise control is difficult and the useful lifetime of the mixture is reduced. The SPM process, using a mixture of sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide, is a popular wafer cleaning process because it quickly removes large amounts of organic material from the surface of silicon wafers. It is ideally suited for stripping photoresist and it hydroxylates surfaces making them hydrophilic (having an affinity for water) in preparation for subsequent wafer processing steps. Spiking with hydrogen peroxide keeps the process going but it means the mixture has to be replaced about once a day. Modutek has developed an innovative way to control the process, resulting in significant cost savings and improved results.

How the SPM Process Cleans Wafers

The mixture of sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide removes organic material very quickly because it is highly corrosive, but it is also unstable. The hydrogen peroxide decays to form water that reduces the mixture concentration and slows down cleaning. To keep the process going, the mixture is periodically spiked with hydrogen peroxide, bringing the concentration back up. At the same time, adding hydrogen peroxide to sulfuric acid is exothermic, raising the temperature of the mixture. Cleaning takes place more quickly at higher temperatures, but the hydrogen peroxide decays more quickly as well, influencing control accuracy. Repeated spiking limits the useful life of the mixture to about one day. Daily replacement of the chemicals is expensive and results in delays for the processing line.

“Bleed and Feed” Process Change Saves Money and Improves Output

Modutek has developed an innovative SPM control strategy that prolongs the life of the SPM mixture while precisely controlling mixture temperature and concentration. In the “bleed and feed” method, Modutek uses a two tank system with a clean tank and a dirty tank. Small programmable amounts are regularly drained from the dirty tank and replaced with mixture from the clean tank. To restore the mixture in both tanks, sulfuric acid is added to the clean tank to replace the amount drained and small amounts of hydrogen peroxide are added to both tanks to maintain the required concentration. This semi-continuous process keeps the mixture concentration within narrow limits without spiking and without the temperature changes caused by spiking.

The “bleed and feed” method is PLC-controlled and the amounts to be drained, the replacement amounts and the frequency of operation can all be adjusted for optimal process results. The concentration and temperature of the mixture remain within tight limits and the process control is more accurate. The useful life of the mixture can be extended to as much as a week and the more precise process control gives improved results.

Benefits from “Bleed and Feed” Process Change

Modutek’s “bleed and feed” method means that chemical use and disposal is reduced substantially. When the wafer cleaning process performance is precise and predictable, better repeatability and consistent cleaning times result in better process line performance. When mixture life is stretched from one day to a week, the cost of chemicals is greatly reduced while the process equipment can stay in service longer since it doesn’t have to be shut down as often for changing the mixture. Downtime is lower and throughput increases.

As a leading semiconductor equipment manufacturer, Modutek continues to work closely with customers to develop innovations that can improve process results. The “bleed and feed” control method increases productivity and reduces costs while the decreased use of chemicals is environmentally friendly. The new process control method could be of interest to manufacturing and research facility managers who can use it to lower production costs, improve output quality and decrease the plant’s environmental footprint. Modutek offers free consultation can discuss details on how the new SPM control method can improve the process for your application.

How Specialized Wet Bench Equipment Improves the RCA Clean Process

How Specialized Wet Bench Equipment Improves the RCA Clean ProcessThe RCA clean process removes contaminants from the surface of silicon wafers so that additional wet process semiconductor manufacturing steps can take place. The process consists of two steps, with the SC1 step removing organic compounds and the SC2 step dislodging any remaining metallic residues or particles. Specialized wet benches ensure that contaminant and particle removal is as complete as possible and the silicon wafers remain clean. To accomplish this, the equipment carefully rinses away contaminants and minimizes the handling of the wafers. Automation can be used to replicate process parameters reliably and consistently. Modutek can supply both standard and customized specialized equipment to carry out the RCA clean process.

RCA Clean SC1 Removes Most of the Wafer Surface Contamination

The SC1 cleaning step uses chemicals to dissolve impurities while leaving the underlying silicon surface unaffected. The wafers are placed in a solution containing equal parts of NH4OH (ammonium hydroxide) and H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide) in five parts of de-ionized water. The solution is heated to about 75 degrees centigrade and the wafers are left in the solution for ten to fifteen minutes. Organic residues are dissolved and particles are removed. A thin layer of silicon oxide forms on the wafer and there is some contamination with metallic ions and particles.

RCA Clean SC2 Removes Metallic Impurities

For SC2, the newly cleaned wafers are placed in a bath containing equal parts of hydrochloric acid and hydrogen peroxide in five parts of de-ionized water. The exact ratio may vary depending on the application. The bath is heated to about 75 degrees centigrade with the wafers soaking for about ten minutes. The solution specifically eliminates alkali residues, metal hydroxides and other metallic particles. The wafers are now completely clean and free of all types of particles.

Wafer Cleaning Equipment Has to Fulfill Specialized Functions

Specialized equipment is needed to carry out RCA clean process steps effectively. The required chemicals have to be delivered in the right quantities to the cleaning baths and then, when the chemicals are no longer needed, they have to be neutralized and disposed of safely. The concentration of the chemicals, the bath temperature and the timing are all important for being able to subsequently reproduce the desired cleaning performance. Contaminants and particles have to be rinsed away and filtered out. Key features of effective cleaning are a low particle count on the wafer surface and a resulting low rejection rate for fabricated wafers.

Modutek’s Wet Process Equipment Provides Specialized Features

Modutek’s wet benches and chemical stations support both of the RCA cleaning steps. Chemical delivery systems ensure that the right amounts of chemicals are supplied to the process safely and that waste chemicals are neutralized before disposal. The FM4910 material of construction keeps particle contamination low and is safe to use with the acid and base processes of RCA clean. All baths include a continuous flow de-ionized water chamber with chemical circulation and filtration to rinse away and remove contaminants. The SolidWorks flow simulation software lets operators calibrate dosages precisely and store settings for future use.

As well as fulfilling customer needs from its extensive line of wet process equipment, Modutek can build custom systems for specific applications. Customers who wish to incorporate drying, etching or stripping functions as well as RCA clean in their process lines can rely on Modutek to design and build exactly what they need.

With 40 years of experience in the wet process and technology sector and one of the leading semiconductor equipment manufacturers, Modutek has the expertise in house to provide specialized equipment for the RCA clean process and other semiconductor manufacturing applications. Customers can count on Modutek to help them find effective solutions and supply the corresponding equipment. Contact Modutek for a free quote or consultation to discuss your process equipment requirements.

How Megasonic Cleaning Reduces Costs and Improves Silicon Wafer Yields

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

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

Megasonic Cleaning Delivers Quick Results with Safe, Gentle Cleaning Action

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

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

Reduced Use of Chemicals Saves Money

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

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

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

Modutek’s Megasonic Cleaning Improves Sub-Micron Particle Removal

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

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

Improvements to the SPM Process Provides Significant Results

Wet bench semiconductor manufacturing relies on the SPM wafer cleaning process to quickly strip photoresist and other residue from silicon wafers. Because the hydrogen peroxide in the sulfuric acid peroxide mixture is unstable, hydrogen peroxide continuously degrades into water and the degradation is accelerated if the mixture is heated to increase the strip rate. To keep the SPM process concentration stable, hydrogen peroxide has to be added, spiking the concentration back to its original level. After several hours of repeated spiking, the mixture has to be replaced.

While other semiconductor equipment manufacturers provide less efficient solutions, Modutek has developed a “bleed and feed” method that keeps the SPM hydrogen peroxide concentration steady. The company has now collected operational results from customers using the new method and a comparison with the traditional SPM process shows substantial savings from reduced use of acid and better operational results.

How Modutek’s “Bleed and Feed” Method Works

The Modutek “bleed and feed” method uses a two-tank configuration with a clean tank and a dirty tank. Periodically an amount of mixture is drained from the dirty tank and replaced with mixture from the clean tank. The clean tank receives an amount of sulfuric acid to replace the drained amount and both tanks receive enough hydrogen peroxide to bring the concentration up to the set level.

The method is PLC-controlled with the initial drain amount, the replacement amount, the hydrogen peroxide amounts and the “bleed and feed” frequency all programmable. The SPM process concentration is maintained and the strip rate remains unchanged, but the SPM mixture has a much longer life. The cost savings result from the SPM mixture not having to be changed frequently.

The “Bleed and Feed” Method Reduces the Consumption of Chemicals

Operational data from customers shows that the Modutek “bleed and feed” method substantially reduces the use of the SPM process chemicals. Data was collected from a semiconductor manufacturing facility using a 2 6-inch carrier bath size and operating on an eight-hour shift.

The use of sulfuric acid was reduced by 77% while the volume of chemicals disposed at the end of the process went down 75%. Acid neutralizer and acid re-agent use declined as well. The reduced cost of chemicals and the savings from lower disposal volumes were substantial.

“Bleed and Feed” Can Increase Throughput

The spiking with hydrogen peroxide of the traditional SPM wafer cleaning process means that mixture replacement causes frequent down times for drain and re-pour. Use of the Modutek “bleed and feed” method reduced system drains from three times per day to once per week on average. The once-per-week change is supported by a quick-drain feature that lets the change-over to a new mixture take place quickly. Overall throughput was increased.

Operational Advantages of “Bleed and Feed”

In addition to cost savings from reduced chemical use and higher product volumes from increased throughput, customers saw operational advantages from using Modutek’s “bleed and feed” method. The reduction in chemical handling lowered the possibility of spills and increased operator and employee safety. At the same time, strip rates and other SPM process characteristics were at least maintained at previous levels or improved.

Customers Can Immediately Take Advantage of “Bleed and Feed”

The Modutek “bleed and feed” method is especially attractive to facility managers, process engineers and researchers concerned about the environmental impact of high volumes of toxic chemicals. Modutek can deliver the new method as part of its standard wet bench stations or prepare a custom design for a specific application. Since Modutek designs and builds its own equipment, the company has the expertise to propose custom solutions for any SPM process applications and allow all their customers to benefit from the new “bleed and feed” method. Contact Modutek for a free consultation or quote on equipment that is designed to meet your specific manufacturing requirements.

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

New SPM Process Provides 75% Improvement in Chemical Savings

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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 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].