Adhesion of passivation layers in semiconductor industry by nanoscratch test

Semiconductor materials, notably silicon, serve as the building blocks for microchips utilized in various electronic sectors. Typically consisting of multiple thin layers, these microchips require robust adhesion to the silicon wafer substrate. The nanoscratch test stands out as a crucial technique for measuring the adhesion of these thin layers.

Electronic devices, parts, or components have become ubiquitous in our daily lives. This widespread integration of electronics owes its existence to the continuous advancements in semiconductor materials, fabrication methods, and functionalities. The majority of semiconductor components rely on layered structures on a silicon (Si) wafer, typically ranging from 200 μm to 800 μm in thickness and with diameters spanning from 1” (25 mm) to 12” (675 mm). These layered structures are meticulously crafted using thin film deposition techniques.
To manufacture a microchip on a wafer, various ultra-thin layers must be deposited to form intricate circuit patterns. These layers encompass a wide spectrum, ranging from highly conductive metallic layers to semi-conductive and insulating/protective layers. Of particular significance in modern electronics are protective layers, often referred to as passivation layers, as they render the semiconductor surface inert. Typically composed of oxides or nitrides (SiO2 or Si3N4), these protective layers are deposited by thermal oxidation or plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition. A critical challenge in passivation layer deposition lies in controlling the adhesion among the passivation layer, the underlying layers, and/or the wafer. Insufficient adhesion can lead to premature delamination, compromising the functionality of the microchip and causing component failure. Hence, it is imperative to meticulously manage this property throughout the development of any new deposition process.

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