Press Release May 21, 2013

Gilbert AZ and Dresden, Germany— May 7, 2013 – Arizona-basedColnatec LLC and Fraunhofer Center Nanoelectronic Techologies (IPMS-CNT), of Dresden, Germany, have signed a joint research and development agreement with the mutual goal of advancing the development of deposition equipment and processes for atomic layer deposition (ALD) in semiconductor and photovoltaic applications. The project itself will test the efficacy of Colnatec’s real-time, high-temperature film thickness monitoring system in a manufacturing-scale equipment environment.

Colnatec Engineer on source inspection before final design of chamber feed thru is made.

One of the key issues in ALD is the lack of in-situ process control during production. This is due to the high temperatures and the corrosive nature of the constituent gases used. The lack of real time measurement leads to an inability to control the process, the ramifications of which are yield loss, process failure, and poor production economics.

“Current competitor measurement systems are post production, meaning manufacturers can’t prevent yield loss from precursor pulse failure,” commented Colnatec CEO, Wendy Jameson. “With a real-time system in place inside the hot chamber, process line engineers can know immediately if a pulse failure occurs, as it occurs, and stop the process before the wafer is ruined, saving thousands of dollars per batch.”

“Another potential use for the sensor system is for particulate,” added Scott Grimshaw, Colnatec Chief Technology Officer. “Tempe operates as a machine maintenance sensor, predicting when an ALD system needs to be cleaned. With the minute amounts of “dirt” allowable inside a chamber, having a dirt-buildup warning system is akin to having a smoke detector: as soon as maximum allowable amounts of particulate accumulate, the system shuts off, sending a warning signal to the operator and preventing wafer damage.”

Colnatec hook up to a 300mm Metal PEALD at Fraunhofer IPMS-CNT. The sensor can access the centre of chamber and by stepless movement move out to radius corresponding to 300mm and 450mm (!).

With the scaling down of semiconductor devices, need for nanotechnology has increased tremendously. Nanoscale devices need to be as thin and perfect as possible, so the use of ALD during nanofabrication is inherently well suited, as it is intrinsically atomic in nature and results in the controlled deposition of films at the atomic scale, conformal coatings, and pin-hole free deposition. Today ALD is used in production of DRAM, Advanced CMOS, MEMS, and passivation of crystal silicon solar cells, to name a few applications.

The Tempe™ System is designed for thin film coating process control when high evaporation or chamber temperatures are required. Because it is able to maintain temperatures within a range of 50-500ºC the sensor is able to detect the breakdown of the gases used in the ALD process. This leads to a real-time measurement of film thickness on the order of Angstroms. The Tempe™ system is equally suited for other high temperature manufacturing processes, including thin film solar cell, organic light emitting diode (OLED), chemical vapor deposition (CVD), and rapid thermal processing (RTP). Combined with the Eon™ film thickness controller, which is capable of real-time correction of any natural frequency drift in the crystal during heating, any process that requires heated crystals or high measurement accuracy will see exponential improvement, leading to the highest accuracy possible as well as enabling continuous crystal operation without cooling.

“Colnatec sensors are exciting for us,” noted Dr. Jonas Sundqvist, Group Leader, High-k Devices at Fraunhofer CNT, “because they will give us insight into our process where we’ve had none before. They also enable us to build better ALD equipment, develop stable ALD precursor chemistries, and eventually deliver a process to our customers worthy of mass production with a low cost of ownership. By integrating the Tempe™ sensor in to the ALD process chamber kit,” he added, “we think we can reduce machine down time, use fewer test wafers, and optimize time and fab floor space for ex-situ process control through monitoring with in-line metrology. This could be very important for our industry–today on 300mm wafers but especially for the upcoming move to 450mm wafer size.”

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[this post will be updated when results become available]