Etching silicon wafers with potassium hydroxide (KOH) is a popular process for semiconductor manufacturing because it is relatively safe compared to other etching methods and because it features good control of the etch rate. When carried out in Teflon tanks, contamination is reduced and the etch rate can be controlled.
A key factor for successful etching is to determine the required etch rate. If the rate is too fast, the KOH may etch too far into the silicon, while if the rate is too slow, the etched holes might be too shallow. Improving the KOH etching process means applying several control methods to the etch rate to ensure the resulting etched shapes are exactly correct.
Process Factors that Affect the KOH Etch Rate
The KOH etch rate in silicon wafers is influenced by the following factors:
- Process temperature. The higher the temperature of the KOH solution, the faster KOH will etch the silicon.
- Solution concentration. A higher concentration increases the etch rate. Normally the concentration of the KOH solution is about 30 percent, but it can vary from 10 to 50 percent, with a corresponding effect on the etch rate.
- Doping. Doping means adding impurities to the silicon crystal. When boron is placed into the silicon crystal lattice at a specific location, etching stops in that direction. Boron doping can influence the shapes to be etched in this way.
- Crystal lattice orientation. The silicon crystal atoms are arranged in a cubic lattice that has a greater atom density in some directions than in others. Etching is slower in directions with a higher atom density.
All four factors have to be taken into account when designing the mask to obtain the microscopic structures in the silicon. The silicon wafer has to be oriented correctly to give the different etch rates along with the different lattice directions. Doping has to be in a place where etching is required to stop and the correct KOH solution concentration has to be mixed. These are initial conditions that are established before the process starts. A target temperature can be set as well but the temperature can be varied to adjust the etch rate during processing. The ability to vary the etch rate by changing the temperature results in excellent control of the KOH etching process.
Modutek Teflon Tanks Feature Rapid Heating and Precise Temperature Control
Modutek’s Teflon tanks for KOH processing are available in a circulating or a static design. The heat source is either inline or immersed in the overflow weir. An all-Teflon liquid path reduces the possibility of contamination. The heated tanks can improve the KOH etching process with short heat-up times and precise temperature control. As a result, Modutek Teflon tanks can keep the etch rate steady by maintaining an accurate temperature set point or can allow the etch rate to be adjusted with fast and reliable controlled temperature changes.
Both models of Teflon tanks feature uniform heating throughout the baths, level and temperature limit settings, and a drain interlock. Heat up rates are 2 to 3 degrees centigrade per minute and the temperature is controlled with a precision of plus/minus 0.5 degrees centigrade. The operating temperature is from 30 to 100 degrees centigrade and a cooling refluxor with Teflon cooling coils is included.
Modutek’s Teflon tanks are available in standard sizes but can work with customers to design and build systems with custom sizes and special requirements. With their high-quality materials, precise temperature controls, and customization capabilities, Modutek’s Teflon tanks can improve the KOH etching process to deliver better semiconductor manufacturing results. Contact Modutek for a free consultation to discuss your specific process requirements.