Selecting Equipment for the KOH Wafer Etching Process

Selecting Equipment for the KOH Wafer Etching ProcessKOH etching is increasingly used for creating microscopic structures in silicon. The wafer etching process uses a 20 to 30 percent solution of potassium hydroxide to create cavities in the unmasked parts of a silicon wafer. KOH etching is comparatively safe and etching can be tightly controlled through regulation of the bath temperature and doping of the silicon. Semiconductor fabrication facilities favor this etching method because of its high precision, good repeatability and cost effectiveness.

How It Works

The silicon wafer is masked with a material impervious to KOH, usually silicon dioxide or silicon nitride. The mask is based on the layout of the structures and circuits of the final semiconductor product and determines where cavities will be etched. The silicon wafers are immersed in the KOH solution and the temperature is controlled to give the desired etch rate.

KOH etching is extremely sensitive to temperature variations at temperatures above 60 degrees centigrade, with the etch rate in microns per hour approximately doubling for every ten degree rise in temperature. A typical rate is 1 micron per minute for a bath at 80 degrees centigrade. Accurate control of the temperature is a key factor in precise etching results.

While varying the temperature can control the etch rate, the orientation of the crystal planes in the silicon and doping of the silicon with boron also influence the rate and direction of the etch. The anisotropic nature of the silicon crystal can be used to create slopes and shapes along the crystal planes and the etch can be stopped in specific locations with boron doping. This way KOH etching can create complex shapes and circuit paths for semiconductor products.

Modutek KOH Bath Equipment

Modutek supports KOH etching as one of its wafer etching process options in the company’s line of wet bench process equipment. The TFa and TT series Teflon heated tanks are ideal for the requirements of KOH etching. The tanks are available for standard carrier sizes for single or double capacity and Modutek can also build custom sizes if needed. The modular nature of the tanks means they can easily be integrated in any new or existing wet etching station.

The TFa series high temperature overflow tanks and the TT series static tanks are both PFA Teflon tanks with an all-Teflon fluid path. Heating can be inline or immersion heating in the overflow weir. The operating temperature range is from 30 to 100 degrees centigrade and the tanks can heat up at the rate of 2 to 3 degrees centigrade per minute. Temperature control accuracy is plus/minus 0.5 degrees centigrade and liquid levels and high temperatures are monitored. The high precision temperature control and the rapid heating rate ensure that heating is uniform throughout the bath.

Additional features and specifications of the Modutek KOH etching tanks include 360 degree overflow filtration through serration overflow, an optional condensing Teflon refluxor with Teflon cooling coils, a pneumatically actuated auto cover, an aspirator valve system and a Teflon gravity drain. An RS232 interface, temperature controllers and remote operation timer switches complete the remote operation capabilities.

Modutek can help customers considering KOH etching in their selection of the appropriate systems. The company has a complete range of wet bench process equipment, chemical handling systems and equipment repair capabilities. In addition to their standard lines, Modutek can customize components to meet the specific needs of their customers. Experienced company personnel can work with customers to design optimal configurations and layouts for their clean room facilities. The KOH etching tanks are the ideal solution for semiconductor fabricators that need to etch microstructures in silicon wafers.