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Microfabrication Laboratory
Advanced Topics in
Fabrication and Microengineering

Lecture 9

Dry Etching
Reading for this lecture:
(1) May, Chapter 5.2
(2) Williams paper

HW #6: Due Nov. 6

Wet Etching vs Dry Etching
•In wet etchants, the etch reactants come form a liquid source
•In dry etchants, the etch reactants come form a gas or vapor
phase source and are typically ionized
-Atoms or ions from the gas are the reactive species that
etch the exposed film
•Selectivity : In general, dry etching has less selectivity than wet etching
•Anisotropy: In general, dry etching has higher degree of anisotropy than
wet etching
•Etch Rate: In general, dry etch has lower etch than wet etching
•Etch Control: Dry etching is much easier to start and stop than wet

F- H2O H+ F
H+ SF6 CF3 +
H2O HF -HF HF H O CF22+ CF5-
F 2

Wet Etch Dry Etch

Etch Mechanism
•Generation of etching species
-Without generating the etching species
etching will not proceed
•Diffusion to surfaces
-etching species must get to the surface
to react with the thin or substrate molecules
-the mechanics of getting to the surface can
limit aspect ratio, undercuttig, uniformity
-can also effect aspect ratio
-strong function of temperature
(Arrhenius relationship)
-obviously effect the etch rate
-can stop etch if the reacted species is not
volatile The slowest dominates !!!
•Diffusion to bulk gas
-can lead to non-uniform etching due to dilution of
un-reacted etching species
Gas Phase Etch
Reactive Gas
- Gas adsorbs on the surface, diassociates, and then reacts

Xenon Difluoride Etching

XeF2 Adsorb Xe + 2 F

•Particular features of XeF2 etching

-extremely selective
-fast etch rate
RF-Plasma-Based Dry Etching
•A plasma is fully or partially ionized gas composed of equal numbers of positive
and negative charges and a different number of unionized molecules.
•A plasma is produced when an electric field of sufficient magnitude is applied to a
gas, causing the gas to break down and become ionized.
Dry Etch Chemistries

Materials Etch Gases Etch Products

Si, SiO2, Si3N4 CF4, SF6, NF3 SiF4

Si Cl2, CCl2F2 SiCl2, SiCl4

Al BCl3, CCL4, SiCl4, Cl2 AlCl3, Al2Cl6

Organics O2, O2 + CF4 CO, CO2, H2O, HF

other: (W, Ta, Mo..) CF4 WF6,..

Methods of Dry Etching
Physical etching: (e.g. sputtering etch)
-mechanical/physical interaction
-positive ions are accelerated and strike
substrate with high kinetic energy, some
energy is then transferred to surface
atoms, which leads to material removal
-negative ions cannot reach the wafer and (chemical)
therefore plays no role in the etching
-Highly anisotropic and Low Selectivity
Chemical etching:
-neutral or/and ionized species interact
with the material’s surface to form (physical &
volatile products
-High product volatility is important so that
the reaction product would not coat the surface and prevent further etching
-Isotropic & High Selectivity
Combinations of Chemical and Physical Etching
-Anisotropic profile, reasonably good selectivity,
and moderate bombardment-induced damage.
Types of Dry Etching Processes

Types of Etching Methods Geometry Selectivity Excitation Energy Pressure

Gas/vapor Etching Chemical Isotropic Very high none

Plasma Etching Chemical Isotropic High 10's to 100's of Watts
(>100 mtorr)

Chemical & Low

Reactive ion Etching Directional Fair 100's of Watts
Physical (10-100 mtorr)

Sputtering Etching Physical Directional Low 100's to 1000's of Watts
(~10 mtorr)

( 1 torr = 1 mmHg)
Degree of Anisotropy

Degree of Anisotropy

l Rt R
Af ≡ 1 − = 1− 1 = 1− 1
hf Rv t Rv
•For isotropic etching:
Rl = Rv and Af = 0

For anisotropic etching:

Rl = 0 and Af = 1
Dry Etching Si/SiO2 in F-Based Gases and Plasmas

•Prominent etch chemistry in ICs & MEMS

•CF4 does not etch Si (does not chemisorb) but F2 gas will
etch Si with etch products SiF2 and SiF4
•Plasma is needed to generate F that must penetrate
SiF2-like surface
Dependence of Etch Rate and Si/SiO2 Selectivity
on O2 /CF4 Ratio
Even with plasma the etch rate is slow
-insufficient F concentration
Adding O2 to the plasma can increase F concentration
O + CF3 Æ COF2 + F then O+COF2 Æ CO2 + 2F

•Etch rate maximizes around 12% O2

•Etch rate decreases at higher O2
-Dilution of F concentration with
overly abundant O2
-Trend is similar for SiO2
•Etch rate is higher for Si
•Si/SiO2 selectivity is good
•Isotropic etching
Dependence of Etch Rate and SiO2/Si Selectivity
on H2 /CF4 Ratio
•Adding H2 drastically lowers Si etch rate
-lowers F concentration (H+ + F +e- Æ HF)
-Nearly 0 at 40% H2

•However, etch rate of SiO2 remains nearly


•Allows etch selectivity to be increased


•Mechanism for increased selectivity has two

-deposition of a non-volatile residue
-role of O2 in etching of SiO2
Increase of Degree of Anisotropy
Formation of Sidewall Passivating Films
•Formation of nonvalatile fluorocarbons
that deposit on the surfaces (Polymerization)
•The deposit can only be removed by
physical collisions with incident ions
•Fluorocarbon films deposits on all
surfaces, but the ion velocity is nearly
vertical. As a result, as the etching
proceeds there is little ion bombardment
of the sidewalls and the fluorocarbon film
•Adding hydrogen encourages the formation
of the fluorocarbon films because hydrogen
scavenge fluorine, creating a carbon-rich plasma
(same thing happened when C2F6 is used
instead of CF4 )
•Less accumulation is observed on SiO2 than Si
•Tradeoff between
Si/SiO2 selectivity and Anisotropy
Controlling Polymerization through F/C-Ratio

•Higher F/C-ratio leads to more etching

•Lower F/C-ratio leads to more


•Can be determined by the gas used

•Adding H2 consumes F – leads to


•Adding O2 consumes C – leads to

Dry Etching Organic Films
•O2 plasmas can remove organic films with high selectivity
•Adding CF4 can increase etch rate and lowers variation
-but selectivity can be reduced if too much is added

Etch rate of Ploymide (um/min)

% variation of etch rate

etch rate

% etch rate variation

% CF4 added O2
Damage in Reactive Ion Etching (RIE)
•Typical ion flux of 1015 ions/cm2 are delivered at energies of
300 to 700 eV in a RIE.

•After a typical etch in a carbon containing RIE, the top 30 Å is

heavily damaged, with an extensive concentration of Si-C bonds.

•RIE processes done in a hydrogen-

containing ambient also have Si-H
defects that can be observed as deep
as 300 Å.

•Hydrogen may penetrate several

microns into the surface where it can
deactivate dopants in the substrate.