Friday, February 13, 2015

Improving the reliability of dry vacuum pumps in high-k ALD processes

As reported in Solid State Technology : The use of high-k dielectric films deposited through atomic layer deposition, primarily in batch furnaces, has intensified, particularly in the manufacture of memory devices and high-k metal gates (HKMG) in logic devices. ALD uses a sequential purge and injection of the precursor gases to generate slow, but accurate growth of the films one atomic layer at a time. One of the precusors is typically a metal organic compound from a liquid source, commonly zirconium or hafnium-containing materials, followed by ozone to create the high-k film.

FIGURE 7. Pictures comparing the third stage of the original pump and New Pump B showing the different deposition patterns.
Pictures comparing the third stage of the original pump and New Pump B showing the different deposition patterns.
Wafers are usually processed in a furnace with batch sizes of 200 or more wafers. Reliability of the vacuum system is imperative to prevent contamination and consequent scrapping of the wafers. Unexpected failures can cause significant loss of work in process and process downtime. For example, if the vacuum pump seizes suddenly due to internal contamination by process by-products, the pressure in the pipe between the vacuum and furnaces rises, and there is a risk that powder deposited in the pipe will flow back into the furnace. This powder can not only contaminate wafers in the furnace, but also force a time-consuming clean-up that may remove the furnace from operation for a day or more.

The challenge

  • The mean-time-between-service (MTBS) for a vacuum pump used in semiconductor manufacturing varies greatly depending on the particular process it supports and the design of the pump. For the ALD processes considered here most failures caused process by-products can be grouped into four categories.
  • Corrosion – Attack on the metal components of the pump results in the opening of clearances leading to loss of base vacuum. Depending on the location of corrosion, the oxidation of the metal may actually generate powder that can cause seizure of rotating elements.
  • Plating – The deposition of metal compounds on the surface of internal components fouls internal mechanism clearances, causing the pump to seize.
  • Powder ingestion – Powder that enters the pump can jam rotating elements, leading to seizure.
  • Condensation – Compounds in the pumped gas stream transition from a gaseous to a solid phase within the pump, depositing on internal surfaces and eventually leading to loss of clearance and seizure.

Complete article here: