This application is a Divisional of U.S. application Ser. No. 09/797,324, filed Mar. 1, 2001 which is incorporated herein by reference.
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
This invention concerns methods of making integrated circuits, particularly layer-formation, such as chemical-vapor deposition.
Integrated circuits, the key components in thousands of electronic and computer products, are interconnected networks of electrical components fabricated on a common foundation, or substrate. Fabricators generally build these circuits layer by layer, using techniques, such as deposition, doping, masking, and etching, to form thousands and even millions of microscopic resistors, transistors, and other electrical components on a silicon substrate, known as a wafer. The components are then wired, or interconnected, together to define a specific electric circuit, such as a computer memory.
One common technique for forming layers in an integrated circuit is called chemical vapor deposition. Chemical vapor deposition generally entails placing a substrate in a reaction chamber, heating the substrate to prescribed temperatures, and introducing one or more gases, known as precursor gases, into the chamber to begin a deposition cycle. The precursor gases enter the chamber through a gas-distribution fixture, such as a gas ring or a showerhead, one or more centimeters above the substrate, and descend toward the heated substrate. The gases react with each other and/or the heated substrate, blanketing its surface with a layer of material. An exhaust system then pumps gaseous by-products or leftovers from the reaction out of the chamber through a separate outlet to complete the deposition cycle.
Conventional chemical-vapor-deposition (CVD) systems suffer from at least two problems. First, conventional CVD systems generally form layers that include microscopic hills and valleys and thus have non-uniform thickness. In the past, fabricators have been able to overcome these hills and valleys through use of post-deposition planarization or other compensation techniques. However, escalating demands for greater circuit density, for thinner layers, and for larger substrates make it increasingly difficult, if not completely impractical, to overcome the non-uniform thickness of conventional CVD layers.
Second, some conventional CVD systems are also inefficient and time consuming. One significant factor affecting both CVD efficiency and duration is the size of conventional reaction chambers, which are generally made large to allow a loading mechanism to insert and extract the substrate. Large chambers generally require more gases to be introduced to achieve desired gas concentrations. However, much of this gas is not only unnecessary based on the amount of material deposited, but is typically treated as waste. Moreover, large chambers also take longer to fill up or pump out, prolonging deposition cycles and thus slowing fabrication of integrated circuits.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Accordingly, there is a need for better systems and methods of chemical-vapor deposition.
To address these and other problems, the present inventor devised new systems, methods, and apparatuses for chemical-vapor deposition. One exemplary chemical-vapor deposition system includes an outer chamber, a substrate holder, and a unique gas-distribution fixture. The fixture includes a gas-distribution surface having holes for dispensing a gas and a gas-confinement member that forms a wall around the holes. In operation, the gas-confinement member engages, or otherwise cooperates with the substrate holder to form an inner chamber within the outer chamber.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The inner chamber has a smaller volume than the outer chamber and thus consumes less gas during the deposition process than would the outer chamber used alone. Also, the smaller chamber volume allows the exhaust system to pump the chamber more quickly, thus increasing the rate of the CVD process. In addition, the exemplary showerhead is made of a material, like silicon, which can be easily passivated to reduce reaction with reactive gases, thus reducing chemical-vapor buildup in the showerhead. Also, the exemplary showerhead includes a configuration of holes that permits uniform gas flow.
FIG. 1 is a side view of an exemplary deposition reactor according to the invention;
FIG. 2 is a top view of an exemplary gas-distribution fixture according to the invention;
FIG. 3 is a flowchart showing an exemplary method according to the invention; and
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
FIG. 4 is a diagram of an exemplary deposition system 400 incorporating a set of four deposition stations similar in structure and function to system 100 of FIG. 1.
The following detailed description, which references and incorporates FIGS. 1-4, describes and illustrates specific embodiments of the invention. These embodiments, offered not to limit but only to exemplify and teach the invention, are shown and described in sufficient detail to enable those skilled in the art to make and use the invention. Thus, where appropriate to avoid obscuring the invention, the description may omit certain information known to those of skill in the art.
FIG. 1 shows an exemplary chemical-vapor-deposition system 100 which incorporates teachings of the present invention. In particular, system 100 includes a chamber 110, a wafer holder 120, a gas-distribution fixture 130, a gas supply system 140, and exhaust pump 150, and a exhaust pump 160.
More particularly, chamber 110 includes respective top and bottom plates 112 and 114 and a sidewall 116. In the exemplary embodiment, chamber 110 is a cylindrical structure formed of stainless steel or glass. However, other embodiments use different structures and materials. Bottom plate 114 includes an opening 114.1. Extending through opening 114.1 is a stem portion 122 of wafer holder 120.
Wafer holder 120 also includes a support platform 124, one or more heating elements 126, and one or more temperature sensors 128. Support platform 124 supports one or more substrates, wafers, or integrated-circuit assemblies 200. Substrate 200 has an exemplary width or diameter of about 30 centimeters and an exemplary thickness in the range of 850-1000 microns. (The term “substrate,” as used herein, encompasses a semiconductor wafer as well as structures having one or more insulative, conductive, or semiconductive layers and materials. Thus, for example, the term embraces silicon-on-insulator, silicon-on-sapphire, and other advanced structures.) Heating elements 126 and temperature sensors 128 are used for heating substrates 200 to a desired temperature. Holder 120 is coupled to a power supply and temperature control circuitry (both of which are not shown.) In the exemplary embodiment, wafer holder 120 is rotatable either manually or automatically and raises via manual or automatic lever mechanism (not shown). Above wafer holder 120 and substrate 200 is gas-distribution fixture 130.
Fixture 130 includes a gas-distribution member 132, a surface-projection (or gas-confinement) member 134, and a gas inlet 136. Gas inlet 132 couples to gas-supply, gas-distribution channels 134, and a gas inlet 136. In the exemplary embodiment, fixture 130 has two operating positions 138.1 and 138.2 relative support platform 124. Fixture 130 takes operating position 138.1, before and after depositions and operating position 138.2 during depositions.
Gas-distribution member 132 includes gas-distribution holes, or orifices, 132.1 and gas-distribution channels 132.2. Holes 132.1 define a gas-distribution surface 132.3. In the exemplary embodiment, holes 132.1 are substantially circular with a common diameter in the range of 15-20 microns; gas-distribution channels 132.2 have a common width in the range of 20-45 microns; and surface 132.3 is substantially planar and parallel to support platform 124 of wafer holder 120. However, other embodiments use other surface forms as well as shapes and sizes of holes and channels. The distribution and size of holes may also affect deposition thickness and thus might be used to assist thickness control. Holes 132.1 are coupled through gas-distribution channels 132.2 to gas inlet 136.
Surface-projection member 134 projects or extends from surface 132.3 toward support platform 124, defining a fixture cavity 134.1. The exemplary embodiment forms surface-projection member 134 from stainless steel as a uniform annular or circular wall or collar that projects perpendicularly from surface 132 to define a right-cylindrical cavity. However, other embodiments form member 134 to project at other angles relative surface 132.3. For example, some form the projection at an acute or obtuse angle, such as 45 or 135 degrees, and others form the projection to peripherally define an oval, ellipse, triangle, square, or any desirable regular or irregular polygon. Thus, the present invention encompasses a wide variety of projection shapes and configurations, indeed any projection shape that facilitates definition of an effective cavity or gas-confinement volume in cooperation with wafer holder 120 and/or substrate 200.
FIG. 2, a plan view, shows further details of the exemplary embodiment of gas-distribution fixture 130. In particular, the plan view shows not only exemplary circular peripheries of gas-distribution member 132 and surface-projection member 134, but also an exemplary distribution pattern for holes 132.1 and an exemplary orthogonal arrangement of gas-distribution channels 132.2. Other embodiments, however, use other hole distribution patterns and channel arrangements. For example, some embodiments include random or concentric hole patterns and various channel geometries, including concentric circles, rectangles, or other regular or irregular concentric polygons. Some embodiments may also dedicate various subsets of channels and corresponding holes to different gases.
Gas-distribution member 132 can be made in a number of ways. One exemplary method entails providing two wafers of materials, such as silicon or other passivatable, inert, or non-reactive material. One wafer is patterned and etched, for example, using conventional photolithographic or micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) technology, to form a pattern holes, and the other wafer is patterned and etched to include a complementary or corresponding pattern of gas-distribution channels. (MEMS refers to the technologies of making structures and devices with micrometer dimensions.) Dry-etching techniques produce small openings and channels, while wet etching produces larger openings and channels. For further details, see, for example, M. Engelhardt, “Modern Application of Plasma Etching and Patterning in Silicon Process Technology,” Contrib. Plasma Physics, vol. 39, no. 5, pp. 473-478 (1999).
The two wafers are then bonded together with the holes and channels in appropriate alignment using known wafer-bonding techniques. See, for example, G. Krauter et al., “Room Temperature Silicon Wafer Bonding with Ultra-Thin Polymer Films,” Advanced Materials, vol. 9, no. 5, pp. 417-420 (1997); C. E. Hunt et al., “Direct Bonding of Micromachined Silicon Wafers for Laser Diode Heat Exchanger Applications,” J. Micromech. Microeng, vol. 1, pp. 152-156 (1991); Zucker, O. et al., “Applications of oxygen plasma processing to silicon direct bonding,” Sensors and Actuators, A. Physical, vol. 36, no. 3, pp. 227-231 (1993), which are all incorporated herein by reference. See also, copending and co-assigned U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/189,276 (dockets 303.534US1 and 97-1468) entitled “Low Temperature Silicon Wafer Bond Process with Bulk Material Bond Strength,” which was filed Nov. 10, 1998 and which is also incorporated herein by reference. The resulting bonded structure is then passivated using thermal oxidation for example.
For an alternative fixture structure and manufacturing method that can be combined with those of the exemplary embodiment, see U.S. Pat. No. 5,595,606, entitled “Shower Head and Film Forming Apparatus Using Same, which is incorporated herein by reference. In particular, one embodiment based on this patent adds a projection or gas-confinement member to the reported showerhead structure.
FIG. 1 also shows that gas inlet 136 couples gas-distribution fixture 130 to gas-supply system 140. Gas-supply system 140 includes a gas line 142, gas sources 144 and 145, and mass-flow controllers 146 and 147. Gas line or conduit 142, which includes a flexible portion 142.1, passes through an opening 116.1 in chamber sidewall 116 to connect with gas inlet 136. Gas source 144 is coupled via mass-flow controller 146 to gas line 142, and gas source 147 is coupled via mass-flow controller 147 to gas line 142. The exemplary embodiment provides computer-controlled thermal or pressure-based mass-flow controllers; however, the invention is not limited to any particular number or type of mass-flow controller, nor to any particular number or set of gas sources.
System 100 also includes vacuum pumps 150 and 160. Vacuum pump 150 is coupled to gas-distribution fixture 130 via a mass-flow controller 152 and gas line 142. And, vacuum pump 160 is coupled to the interior of chamber 110 via a line 162 and an opening 114.2 in chamber bottom plate 114. In the exemplary embodiment, vacuum pump 160 has a greater capacity than vacuum pump 150.
In general operation, system 100 functions, via manual or automatic control, to move gas-distribution fixture 130 from operating position 138.1 to position 138.2, to introduce reactant gases through fixture 130 onto substrate 200, and to deposit desired matter through chemical-vapor deposition onto the substrate. After the desired matter is deposited, pump 150 evacuates gases through fixture 130.
More particularly, FIG. 3 shows a flowchart 300 which illustrates an exemplary method of operating system 100. Flowchart 300 includes process blocks 202-216.
The exemplary method begins at block 302 with insertion of substrate 300 onto wafer holder 120. Execution then proceeds to block 304.
Block 304 establishes desired temperature and pressure conditions within chamber 110. In the exemplary embodiment, this entails operating heating element 126 to heat substrate 200 to a desired temperature, and operating vacuum pump 160 to establish a desired pressure. Temperature and pressure are selected based on a number of factors, including composition of the substrate and reactant gases, as well as the desired reaction. After establishing these deposition conditions, execution continues at block 306.
In block 306, the system forms or closes an inner chamber around substrate 200, or more precisely a portion of substrate 200 targeted for deposition. In the exemplary embodiment, this entails using a lever or other actuation mechanism (not shown) to move gas-distribution fixture 130 from position 138.1 to position 138.2 or to move wafer holder 120 from position 138.2 to 138.1. In either case, this movement places gas-distribution surface 132.3 one-to-five millimeters from an upper most surface of substrate 200. In this exemplary position, a lower-most surface of surface-projection member 134 contacts the upper surface of support platform 124, with the inner chamber bounded by gas-distribution surface 132.3, surface-projection member 134, and the upper surface of support platform 124.
Other embodiments define in the inner chamber in other ways. For example, some embodiments include a surface-projection member on support platform 124 of wafer holder 120 to define a cavity analogous in structure and/or function to cavity 134.1. In these embodiments, the surface-projection member takes the form of a vertical or slanted or curved wall, that extends from support platform 124 and completely around substrate 200, and the gas-distribution fixture omits a surface-projection member. However, some embodiments include one or more surface-projection members on the gas-distribution fixture and the on the support platform, with the projection members on the fixture mating, engaging, or otherwise cooperating with those on the support platform to define a substantially or effectively closed chamber. In other words, the inner chamber need not be completely closed, but only sufficiently closed to facilitate a desired deposition.
After forming the inner chamber, the exemplary method continues at block 308. Block 308 entails introducing one or more reactant or precursor gases into the separate chamber. To this end, the exemplary embodiment operates one or more mass-flow controllers, such as controllers 146 and 147, to transfer gases in controlled quantities and temporal sequences from gas sources, such as sources 144 and 147, through gas line 142 and fixture 130 into the separate chamber.
Notably, the inner chamber is smaller in volume than chamber 100 and thus requires less gas and less fill time to achieve desired chemical concentrations (assuming all other factors equal.) More precisely, the exemplary embodiment provides an inner chamber with an empty volume in the range of 70 to 350 cubic centimeters, based on a 1-to-5 millimeter inner-chamber height and a fixture with a 30-centimeter diameter. Additionally, the number and arrangement of holes in the fixture as well as the placement of the holes close to the substrate, for example within five millimeters of the substrate, promote normal gas incidence and uniform distribution of gases over the targeted portion of substrate 200.
Block 310 entails allowing the gases to react with each other and/or the heated substrate to deposit a layer of material on targeted portions of the substrate. It is expected that the resulting layer will exhibit a highly uniform thickness across the entire substrate because of the more uniform gas distribution.
Next, as block 312 shows, the exemplary method entails evacuating gaseous waste or by-products produced during the deposition. To this end, the exemplary embodiment, activates vacuum pump 160 to pump gaseous waste from the inner chamber through gas-distribution fixture 130. In some embodiments, pumps 150 and 160 are operated concurrently to establish initial pressure conditions and to evacuate the inner and outer chambers after deposition.
In block 314, the system opens the separate chamber. In the exemplary embodiment, this entails automatically or manually moving gas-distribution fixture 130 to position 138.1. Other embodiments, however, move the wafer holder or both the fixture and the wafer holder. Still other embodiments may use multipart collar or gas-confinement members which are moved laterally relative the wafer holder or gas-distribution fixture to open and close an inner chamber.
In block 316, substrate 200 is unloaded from chamber 110. Some embodiments remove the substrate manually, and others remove it using an automated wafer transport system.
FIG. 4 shows a conceptual representation of another exemplary chemical-vapor-deposition system 400 incorporating teachings of the present invention. System 400 includes a rectangular outer chamber 410 which encloses four deposition stations 420, 422, 424, and 426, loaded with respective substrates 200, 202, 204, and 206. Although the figure omits numerous components for clarity, each deposition station is structurally and operationally analogous to system 100 in FIG. 1. In the exemplary embodiment, two or more of the stations are operated in parallel. Additionally, other embodiments of this multi-station system arrange the stations in a cross formation, with each station confronting a respective lateral face of the chamber. Still other embodiments use different outer chamber geometries, for example cylindrical or spherical.
In furtherance of the art, the inventor has presented new systems, methods, and apparatuses for chemical-vapor deposition. One exemplary system includes an outer chamber, a substrate holder, and a unique gas-distribution fixture. The fixture includes a gas-distribution surface having holes for dispensing a gas and a gas-confinement member that engages, or otherwise cooperates with the substrate holder to form an inner chamber within the outer chamber.
Notably, the inner chamber not only consumes less gas during deposition to reduce deposition waste and cost, but also facilitates rapid filling and evacuation to reduce deposition cycle times (with all other factors being equal.) The inner chamber also places the gas-distribution fixture within several millimeters of a substrate on the substrate holder, promoting normal gas incidence across the chamber and thus uniform deposition thickness.
The embodiments described above are intended only to illustrate and teach one or more ways of practicing or implementing the present invention, not to restrict its breadth or scope. The actual scope of the invention, which embraces all ways of practicing or implementing the invention, is defined only by the following claims and their equivalents.