Skip to Main Content
Your organization might have access to this article on the publisher's site. To check, click on this link:http://dx.doi.org/+10.1116/1.2101678
When etching high-aspect-ratio silicon features using deep reactive ion etching (DRIE), researchers find that there is a maximum achievable aspect ratio, which we define as the critical aspect ratio, of an etched silicon trench using a DRIE process. At this critical aspect ratio, the apparent etch rate (defined as the total depth etched divided by the total elapsed time) no longer monotonically decreases as the aspect ratio increases, but abruptly drops to zero. In this paper, we propose a theoretical model to predict the critical aspect ratio and reveal its causal mechanism. The model considers aspect ratio dependent transport mechanisms specific to each of the reactant species in the three subprocesses of a time-multiplexed etch cycle: deposition of a fluorocarbon passivation layer, etching of the fluorocarbon polymer at the bottom of the trench, and the subsequent etching of the underlying silicon. The model predicts that the critical aspect ratio is defined by the aspect ratio at which the polymer etch rate equals the product of the deposition rate and the set time ratio between the deposition and etching phases for the time-multiplexed process. Several DRIE experiments were performed to qualitatively validate the model. Both model simulations and experimental results demonstrate that the magnitude of the critical aspect ratio primarily depends on (i) the relative flux of neutral species at the trench opening, i.e., the microloading effect, and (ii) aspect ratio dependent transport of ions during the polymer etching subprocess of a DRIE cycle.