Mechanicals properties of thin films in semiconductor industry by nanoindentation

Success in the semiconductor industry relies heavily on innovation in size and speed, with the advantage of enabling increased power on a single chip. These chips consist of numerous thin layers, which must ensure a certain quality and durability. Consequently, nanoindentation measurements can be explored to ascertain their mechanical properties.

The race for ever smaller, more powerful and more reliable devices in semiconductor manufacturing is gathering pace. In recent years, the semiconductor industry was intensifying its efforts in innovation to align with the ongoing trend set by Moore's Law, focusing on the continual reduction of chip sizes to the nanoscale. The stakes are high, with promises of a 15% increase in speed while consuming 25% less energy for the 2 nm silicon chips produced by TSMC by 2025.
As silicon chips continue to shrink, resulting in thinner layers on wafers, typically measuring tens or hundreds of nanometers thick, novel challenges emerge in defect identification and coating uniformity control. Thin layers pose unique challenges for manufacturers, necessitating a rapid assessment of coating quality and deposition processes. Mechanical properties such as hardness and deformation behaviors on thin layers offer valuable insights into coating quality and deposition processes.
A variety of deposition techniques, including physical and chemical vapor deposition (PVD & CVD), sputtering, and atomic layer deposition (ALD), are employed to apply thin coatings to semiconductor substrates. The quality of these thin film depends on several factors, including substrate selection, precursor materials, and deposition temperature. Nanoindentation measurements serve as an excellent tool to quantify and estimate the uniformity of these layers and their mechanical properties by determining elastic modulus and hardness values.
Conducting multiple indentations on the surface enables the assessment of mechanical property uniformity within the thin film. Inhomogeneities or variations in these properties may indicate defects or inconsistencies in the coating.

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