How Megasonic Cleaning Improves Silicon Wafer Manufacturing

When silicon wafers are cleaned between manufacturing steps, it is critical to remove all contamination from the wafer surfaces. The remaining traces of process chemicals or microscopic particles can disrupt the etching process and result in defective or low-quality semiconductor devices.

Megasonic cleaning uses high-frequency sound waves in the cleaning tank to remove contaminants and particles from the silicon wafers. The technology can save time and money because it works quickly and does not require expensive chemicals. Silicon wafers cleaned with Megasonic cleaning are completely clean with a reduced particle count. As a result, the technology can improve the operation of semiconductor manufacturing lines for semiconductor fabricators and research labs.

Megasonic Cleaning Reduces the Use of Toxic Chemicals

The cleaning of silicon wafers after the completion of each semiconductor manufacturing step is accomplished by soaking the wafers in mixtures of chemicals including hydrochloric acid or sulfuric acid. In addition to the cost of the chemicals themselves, there are ongoing costs related to the storage, delivery, and disposal of these chemicals. The possibility of leaks and the disposal of the waste chemicals represent environmental hazards that are continuously being mitigated with tighter regulations. Reducing the use of aggressive chemicals can save money beyond their direct cost and can improve the environmental footprint of the semiconductor manufacturing facility.

With Megasonic cleaning, a frequency generator produces an electric signal in the MHz range that is transmitted to a transducer. The transducer that is immersed in the cleaning solution converts the signal to sound waves in the cleaning tank. The sound waves create microscopic cavitation bubbles that deliver a gentle scrubbing action against the surface of the silicon wafer. The cleaning intensity is strong enough to dislodge impurities and contaminants but will not damage the wafer surface or the microscopic structures that have been etched into it.

When Megasonic cleaning is used to replace some of the traditional cleaning steps, the use of chemicals is reduced. Megasonic cleaning uses plain water or water with the addition of mild detergents. The cost benefits and reduced environmental impact can be substantial, and the areas where Megasonic cleaning is used will have increased worker safety and reduced chemical exposure.

Megasonic Cleaning Can Deliver Improved Cleaning Performance

While acid baths work well for cleaning general contaminants from silicon wafer surfaces, ensuring low particle counts can be challenging. Contaminating particles can block etching and cause defects in the final semiconductor devices. As functions become more and more closely packed on the wafer and microscopic structures become smaller, a single particle can affect the etched shapes and current paths. A key factor for improving output quality and reducing defects is reducing particle counts to a minimum.

Microscopic particles can be difficult to remove from the surface of silicon wafers because they often develop a static charge that allows them to cling to the wafer. Chemicals can dissolve the substances that make the particle adhere to the wafer surface but the static charge often remains as an additional bond. With Megasonic cleaning, very small cavitation bubbles form and collapse in tune with the sound wave frequency in the MHz range. When a bubble collapses near the wafer surface, it emits a powerful jet that dislodges any particle still clinging to the surface. Wafers that have been cleaned with Megasonic cleaning systems have a lower particle count as well as a high degree of cleanliness.

Modutek Can Help with Megasonic Cleaning Integration

As a leading manufacturer of wet process semiconductor manufacturing equipment, Modutek can help customers integrate Megasonic cleaning into their wafer cleaning process. Modutek offers free consultation and can show customers how to realize the benefits of lower costs, better output quality, and improved yields.

How Megasonic Cleaning Technology Improves Silicon Wafer Yields

How Megasonic Cleaning Technology Improves Silicon Wafer YieldsSilicon wafer cleaning is a key process during semiconductor manufacturing that becomes especially critical for smaller microcircuit geometries on 300 mm (approx. 12 inch) silicon wafers. Sub micron particles must be removed from the wafer substrate during processing without damaging the delicate microcircuit structures. Any particles that remain may result in defective semiconductor components or output of low quality.

A process incorporating Megasonic Cleaning technology at higher megahertz frequencies can help remove tiny particles and contaminants without damaging or altering the surface of the wafer. The selection of appropriate frequencies and power levels is important for effective cleaning results. Modutek has partnered with leading ultrasonic cleaning system provider Kaijo Corporation to incorporate Kaijo’s high frequency Megasonic Cleaning technology into the Modutek wet bench process equipment. These wet benches can combine chemical cleaning processes such as SC1 with megasonic cleaning in the megahertz range to remove a high percentage of 0.1 to 0.4 micron particles. Depending on cleaning times and temperatures, cleaning efficiencies of over 99 percent can be achieved.

How Megasonic Cleaning Works

In megasonic cleaning systems, a megasonic frequency generator produces high-frequency sound waves in a liquid via a transducer immersed in a liquid bath. The sound waves are compression waves that generate high pressure at their peaks and low pressure in their troughs. Cavitation bubbles appear in the low-pressure troughs and collapse in the high-pressure peaks. This bubble action in the cleaning liquid removes contaminants from exposed surfaces.

Low ultrasonic frequencies in the range of 20 to 40 kHz produce comparatively large, very energetic bubbles whose collapse can cause cavitation damage to delicate surfaces. For semiconductor cleaning applications, megasonic frequencies in the MHz range generate much smaller, less energetic bubbles. Their gentle cleaning action does not damage the wafer surface while still cleaning effectively.

At the same time, the bubbles agitate the cleaning solution, reducing boundary layers and promoting cleaning solution access to small surface features such as crevices and complex shapes. Using megasonic cleaning in silicon wafer manufacturing improves the effectiveness of the chemical cleaning solution by removing small sub-micron particles through the action of energetic bubbles.

Modutek Megasonic Cleaning Systems

Modutek has been in partnership with Kaijo Corporation to improve the cleaning performance of their wet benches by incorporating the use Kaijo’s Megasonic Cleaning technology. Kaijo Corporation is a world leader in megasonic and ultrasonic cleaning systems and Modutek incorporates the Quava megasonic cleaning system generator into their wet bench equipment for this application.

Modutek’s Megasonic Cleaning System that utilizes Kaijo’s megasonic generator operates at 950 kHz in the standard version. Frequencies of 200 kHz, 430 kHz, 750 kHz and 2 MHz are also available for cleaning applications that require a more or less robust cleaning action. The Megasonic Cleaning System can operate at power levels of 600, 900 or 1200 W.

Modutek has incorporated Megasonic Cleaning into their wet benches in either indirect or direct bath designs. Indirect Megasonic Cleaning can operate at temperatures of up to 140 degrees centigrade while the direct design places a Teflon-coated transducer directly into the tank and can operate at up to 70 degrees centigrade. Both designs offer optimal sub micron particle removal without cavitation damage to the silicon wafers at the standard 950 kHz frequency.

Decision makers at semiconductor manufacturing facilities can use Modutek’s wet benches that incorporate the use of megasonic cleaning technology to improve yields. Cleaning times are reduced while cleaning effectiveness is higher and lower chemical consumption can contribute to better cost control. Improved removal of small sub-micron contaminants and particles can reduce wafer defects and produce better quality output. If you need to improve wafer processing quality and yields and want a free consultation or quote on using wet bench stations that incorporate megasonic cleaning technology, call Modutek or email [email protected].