US RE41581 E1
A method for forming a low dielectric constant insulator in a monolithic substrate and the dielectric formed by the method. The method includes formation and patterning of a mask on a silicon substrate followed by anisotropic etching of the silicon to provide a dense array of deep holes. Isotropic etching may be used to form a cavity beneath the dense array of holes and coupling to bottoms of the holes. Sides of the holes are then thermally oxidized. A conventional dielectric is then formed, sealing tops of the holes. The conventional dielectric is optionally densified. Conventional chemical-mechanical polishing then planarizes the dielectric and further conventional processing may be carried out on the wafer to form active circuitry together with passive components such as high Q inductors.
1. A method for forming a dielectric platform in a silicon substrate comprising:
forming a mask on a top surface of the substrate;
etching an array of holes in the substrate using the mask, the holes each having a depth greater than a width of the holes, the width of the holes being less than two microns;
oxidizing sidewalls of the holes to provide a dielectric lattice, sidewalls of the holes being formed from silicon dioxide and having a thickness of less than one micron;
forming a subsurface cavity in the substrate beneath the dielectric lattice;
forming a seal at taps of the holes, sealing the holes and the subsurface cavity; and
planarizing a top surface of the seal using a chemical-mechanical polish.
2. The method of
3. A method for forming a subsurface cavity in a semiconductor substrate, comprising:
defining a surface region corresponding to the subsurface cavity;
forming a plurality of openings in the surface region to a first depth with a first etch step;
forming a dielectric layer in the plurality of openings;
providing etchant in a second etch step through the plurality of openings to form the subsurface cavity beneath the surface region; and
forming a dielectric layer on the surface region to seal the subsurface cavity.
4. The method of
5. The method of
6. A method for forming a device support structure in a semiconductor substrate comprising:
forming a pattern of openings in a region of the semiconductor substrate wherein an opening in the interior of the region is spaced substantially equidistant in all directions from adjacent openings;
forming an oxide layer in the pattern of openings to form an oxide lattice which corresponds to the device support structure; and
capping the oxide lattice to seal the pattern of openings.
7. The method of
8. The method of
9. The method of
10. The method of
11. A method, comprising:
forming a dielectric platform in a silicon substrate, wherein the forming of the dielectric platform comprises:
etching a silicon substrate to form a plurality of sidewalls having portions of the silicon substrate between the plurality of sidewalls, wherein the plurality of sidewalls extend from a surface of the silicon substrate into the silicon substrate a distance of at least about three microns; and
oxidizing the portions of the silicon substrate between the sidewalls to convert substantially all of the portions of the silicon substrate between the sidewalls to silicon dioxide; and
forming an active electrical component in an area of the silicon substrate adjacent to dielectric platform after the forming of the dielectric platform.
12. The method of
13. The method of
14. The method of
15. The method of
16. The method of
17. The method of
forming a subsurface cavity beneath the plurality of openings; and
depositing a dielectric material in the plurality of openings to form a plurality of voids in the dielectric platform, wherein the plurality of voids occupy in excess of 40 % of the total volume of the dielectric platform.
18. The method of
19. The method of
20. The method of
21. A method of forming a dielectric platform in a silicon substrate, wherein forming the dielectric platform comprises:
etching the silicon substrate to form a plurality of sidewalls having portions of the silicon substrate between the plurality of sidewalls, wherein the plurality of sidewalls extend from a surface of the silicon substrate into the silicon substrate a distance of at least about three microns and wherein each of the plurality of sidewalls is curved; and
oxidizing the sidewalls to convert substantially all of the portions of the silicon substrate between the sidewalls to silicon dioxide.
22. The method of
23. The method of
24. The method of
25. The method of
This application is a division, of application Ser. No. 09/351,714 filed Jul. 12, 1999 now U.S. Pat. No. 6,307,247.
1. Field of the Invention
This invention relates to a method of forming high quality factor passive components on silicon substrates.
More specifically, the present invention relates to formation of an etch mask on a silicon substrate and use of the etch mask to provide a low dielectric constant platform in the silicon substrate.
In a further and more specific aspect, the present invention relates to formation of a robust, high quality dielectric layer in a silicon substrate that is compatible with formation of active components to provide RF circuitry on the silicon substrate.
In another aspect, the present invention relates to formation of platforms suitable for carrying high speed digital busses.
2. Prior Art
In operation of RF integrated circuits, it is necessary to provide frequency-selective circuitry for filtering signals, amplifying selected signals with respect to other, unwanted signals and for other kinds of RF functions. As frequencies increase, the provision of frequency-selective components becomes more problematic, especially in monolithic form.
Various kinds of frequency selection components have been developed over the years. Some of these, such as crystals and SAWs, depend on mechanical resonances to provide frequency selectivity. These types of devices tend to be incompatible with silicon circuitry requirements for reasons having to do with materials engineering and also because these types of devices require different, and much more expensive, packaging than in typical for silicon circuitry.
As a result, much work has focused on attempts to provide LC frequency selection functions on silicon. However, especially the inductors tend to be difficult to form with high quality factor, also known as “Q”. Additionally, the kinds of inductors that have been made tend to require large areas on the resulting integrated circuit. Some systems opt for separately-packaged frequency selection components, with the result that parts count is increased.
In an article entitled “Integrated Passive Components in MCM-Si Technology and their Applications in RF-Systems” by J. Hartung, 1998 Intl. Conf. on Multichip Modules and High Density Packaging, IEEE Cat. No. 0-7803-4850-8/98 (Aug. '98), pp. 256-261, measured Qs and inductances for coils fabricated on silicon multichip modules are presented. In an article entitled “Applications for GaAs and Silicon Integrated Circuits in Next Generation Wireless Communication Systems” by L. M. Burns, IEEE JSSC, Vol. 30, No. 10, Oct. 1996, pp. 1088-1095, the demand for lightweight, portable communications products is addressed through monolithic integration of passive components in receivers and transmitters. These articles address system-level concerns that are met by combining separate circuits for the frequency selection functions.
Monolithic integration of inductors is also addressed in a variety of ways. For example, in an article entitled “Analysis, Design, and Optimization of Spiral Inductors and Transformers for Si RF IC's” by A. M. Niknejad and R. G. Meyer, IEEE JSSC Vol. 33, No. 10, Oct. '98, pp. 1470-1481, design rules are discussed and performance tradeoffs are analyzed for spiral inductors.
In “A 1.8 GHz Low-Phase-Noise Spiral-LC CMOS VCO” by J. Craninckx and M. Steyaert, IEEE Cat. No. 0-7803-3339-X 96 (1996), pp. 30-31, silicon and GaAs technologies are discussed. Monolithic spiral inductors that are formed on conductive substrates tend to have reduced Qs due to losses that are caused by ground currents being induced in the substrate beneath the spiral inductors.
Unfortunately, while GaAs substrates may be made to be semi-insulating, thereby reducing or substantially eliminating parasitic substrate currents, GaAs substrates are expensive. Additionally, many GaAs devices have higher standby power requirements than do silicon devices.
Silicon substrates are typically provided with a lightly doped epitaxial layer for formation of active components (e.g., transistors and the like). A more heavily doped substrate is usually employed to support the epitaxial layer and to provide a low resistance ground return path for components formed in the epitaxial layer. Additionally, a highly doped substrate aids in prevention of latch-up phenomena.
While the heavily doped substrate provides a ground return path for the active circuits, it also results in reduced coil Q and losses when coils are formed on insulating layers above the substrate. As a result, silicon substrates that have been prepared for formation of active components are poorly suited to formation of high Q inductors.
One approach to providing monolithic inductors having increased Qs is to form a thick dielectric layer on the substrate The inductors require a relatively thick dielectric layer in order to be adequately isolated from the conductive substrate. However, this results in a nonplanar surface, which interferes with photolithographic processes employed for definition of other circuit elements. Additionally, these dielectric layers tend to result in substantial stresses in the substrate, which can lead to bowing of the substrate and other problems.
It would be highly advantageous, therefore, to remedy the foregoing and other deficiencies inherent in the prior art.
Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide improvements in masking for formation of high quality, thick dielectric layers in silicon substrates.
Another object of the present invention is the provision of an improved platform for formation of high speed digital busses on silicon substrates.
An additional object of the instant invention is the provision of an improved method and apparatus for providing thick dielectric layers on silicon substrates while preserving planarity of the substrate surface.
Moreover, an object of the instant invention is the provision of an improved method and apparatus for providing reduction in coil losses while preserving capability for formation of active components on a silicon substrate.
Still a further additional object of the present invention is to provide an improved process for forming passive components on silicon.
Still another object of the present invention is the provision of a method, system and apparatus for suppressing losses in coils that are monolithically cointegrated with other microelectronic components.
Yet still another object of the instant invention is the provision of a method for forming thick, planar, low dielectric constant, low loss dielectric layers in silicon substrates.
And a further object of the invention is to provide a method, system and apparatus for suppressing losses in monolithic inductors.
And still a further object of the invention is the provision of method and apparatus, according to the foregoing, which is intended to improve operation of inductors in monolithic silicon circuits.
Briefly stated, to achieve the desired objects of the instant invention in accordance with an aspect thereof, provided is a dielectric platform having a dielectric constant that is reduced below that of silicon dioxide and that is formed in a silicon substrate. The dielectric platform may be formed to have a depth of up to tens of microns. The dielectric platform may be coplanar or nearly coplanar with a surface of a silicon wafer, promoting subsequent formation of active circuitry using conventional techniques. As a result, high Q inductors may be realized together with conventional CMOS, bipolar or BiCMOS structures to form monolithic RF circuits.
The foregoing and further and more specific objects and advantages of the instant invention will become readily apparent to those skilled in the art from the following detailed description of preferred embodiments thereof taken in conjunction with the drawings in which:
Turning now to the drawings, in which like reference characters indicate corresponding elements throughout the several views, attention is first directed to
The dielectric platform 12 may also be used to support inductors, such as spiral inductors, or thin film resistors, such as doped polycrystalline silicon or metal resistors. The platform 12 may also be used to support capacitors having two conductive plates separate by an insulating dielectric. The conductive plates may each be formed from metal, polycrystalline silicon or metal silicides. Examples include metal-insulator-metal, poly-insulator-metal, metal-silicide-insulator-metal, poly-insulator-metal silicide or poly-insulator-poly capacitors.
An advantage provided by the dielectric platform 12 is that passive components formed on the dielectric platform 12 have greatly reduced capacitance to the conductive silicon substrate 10. As a result, reduced amounts of electrical power are required in order to switch electrical signals in conductors and other components formed on the dielectric platform 12, such as high speed digital busses and interconnects.
Increased electrical Qs and increased operating frequencies are possible for passive components formed on the dielectric platform 12, as is discussed in the Annual Report 1998 of the Instut fur Halbleiter Physik (Prof. Abbas Ourmazed, IHP 15230, pp. 50-51). The approach described in this report provides improvements in coil Qs but also relies on long trenches that are subsequently oxidized to provide a thick dielectric having voids comprising only about 20% of the total volume of the dielectric. Further, these structures can result in substantial stresses being produced in the directions of the trenches.
It will be appreciated that while only one of the dielectric platforms 12 and areas 11 are shown in
In one embodiment, the openings 20 are formed to have a width, measured along section line 8—8, of between 0.5 and 2 microns. In one embodiment, the openings 20 are formed to have a width of about 1.2 microns and are separated by about 0.4 microns.
In one embodiment, the mask 13 is formed by conventional oxidation of portions of the substrate 10, followed by conventional photolithography and etching, such as anisotropic plasma etching. In one embodiment, the mask 13 is formed to have a thickness of between 0.3 and 1.0 microns. In one embodiment, the mask 13 is formed to have a thickness of about 0.6 microns.
A conventional silicon etch is used to remove silicon from beneath the cavities 21 to provide one or more cavities 200. In one embodiment, the silicon etch is a high speed plasma etch having predominantly anisotropic characteristics. In one embodiment, alternating between isotropic etching and anisotropic etching completes the cavity 200. In one embodiment, one or more pillars 17 are formed within the cavity 200 beneath the region 7. In one embodiment, the cavity 200 is formed to have a depth of between 2 and 15 microns, and the increase in width is between 0.2 and 0.7 microns. In one embodiment, the cavity 200 is formed to have a depth of about 5 microns, and the increase in width is about 0.5 microns. As a result of these etches, a suspended lattice 15 comprised of silicon and a silicon based dielectric is formed above the cavity 200.
In one embodiment, a conventional TEOS process may be used to deposit an oxide layer 55. It will be appreciated that formation of the layer 55 may result in some deposition of silicon dioxide within the cavity 200, however, significant improvements in relative dielectric constant and in parasitic capacitance to the substrate may still be provided. Conventional TEOS processes include heating of the substrate 10 in a partial vacuum, resulting in a partial vacuum or gaseous dielectric in the cavity 200 after the TEOS layer 55 seals the openings 20.
In one embodiment, the oxide layer 55 has been formed to a thickness of about 1.1 microns. The TEOS oxide layer 55 is formed and seals the cavity 200, resulting in a continuous oxide layer 55 at and slightly beneath the surface of the silicon substrate 10, filling tops of the cavities 21 and sealing them. In one embodiment, the cavity 200 includes a gaseous dielectric.
As a result, the planarized region 56 completes a dielectric platform that includes a cavity 200 in the conductive silicon substrate 10. The dielectric constant of the composite structure is greatly reduced compared to, e.g., what would be provided by a thick, predominantly solid dielectric layer. Additionally, reduced stress is induced in the silicon substrate 10 compared to thick dielectric layers or to dielectric layers prepared using etched trenches followed by oxidation, because the dielectric platform does not include long portions formed from oxide and does include substantial volumes that are not occupied by solids having thermal coefficients of expansion differing from that of the silicon substrate 10.
In one embodiment, the dielectric platform includes voids occupying in excess of 40% of the total volume prior to TEOS deposition. This results in an effective dielectric constant reduction of about 30%, from an εR of about 3.9 to an effective εR of about 2.74. In one embodiment, the dielectric platform includes voids occupying in excess of 50% of the total volume prior to TEOS deposition. This results in an effective dielectric constant reduction of about 39%, from an εR of about 3.9 to an effective εR of about 2.39. Formation of cavity 200 results in further reductions of the effective dielectric constant. In one embodiment, assuming a depth of about three microns for the silicon dioxide lattice 18 and a depth of about five microns for the cavity 200, an effective dielectric constant εR of about 1.81 is provided over a depth of about 8 microns. As a result, passive elements formed on top of the layer 56 of the dielectric platform 12 have sharply reduced parasitic capacitances to the substrate 10.
Traditional integrated circuits employ relative thin (e.g., less than one micron) dielectric layers for isolation of passive components and busses from the substrate. In comparison, the dielectric platform 12 of the present invention is capable of providing a substantially thicker dielectric. Additionally, the dielectric platform 12 may be formed to have a reduced dielectric constant relative to conventional dielectric layers. As a result, the effective dielectric constant of the dielectric platform 12 is reduced by both the reduced effective dielectric constant and the increased thickness. In one embodiment, the effective dielectric constant for capacitance between passive components formed on the surface 56 of the dielectric platform 12 and the substrate 10 is reduced by a factor of between one and two orders of magnitude over that of conventional dielectric layers. As a result, parasitic capacitance to the substrate is greatly reduced and losses due to substrate resistance are also dramatically reduced. The amount of current needed to switch the electrical state of conductors formed on the dielectric platform 12 is also dramatically reduced, reducing power requirements for integrated circuits formed using the dielectric platform 12.
For example, conventional CMOS and bipolar integrated circuits may be formed in areas adjacent to the dielectric platform 12, and these circuits may be coupled to and employ passive components such as spiral inductors, microstrip transmission lines and the like that are formed on the planar surface of the dielectric platform 12. Separating the planar surface from the silicon substrate 10 allows higher Qs to be realized for these passive components.
The foregoing detailed description of the instant invention for the purposes of explanation have been particularly directed toward formation of a dielectric platform allowing high Q inductors to be formed on silicon wafers together with transistors and other microelectronic components.
It will be appreciated that the need for thick, monolithic dielectric films has been described along with methods for meeting that need. A novel low dielectric constant insulator has been described that finds application in RF integrated circuits and in formation of interconnections for high speed digital circuits. The dielectric platform 12 also provides a substantial reduction in noise induced in the substrate 10 and coupled from the substrate 10 to other components due to switching transients. It will be appreciated that improvements in processing techniques may enable formation of dielectric platforms having smaller dimensions and thicknesses than have been described herein without departing from the scope of the appended claims.
Various changes and modifications to the embodiment herein chosen for purposes of illustration will readily occur to those skilled in the art. For example, the depth of the openings in the silicon substrate may be chosen as may be desired for a specific application To the extent that such modifications and variations do not depart from the spirit of the invention, they are intended to be included within the scope thereof which is assessed only by a fair interpretation of the following claims.
Having fully described the invention in such clear and concise terms as to enable those skilled in the art to understand and practice the same,