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/+10.1116/1.4716176
Plasma etching processes at the 22 nm technology node and below will have to satisfy multiple stringent scaling requirements of microelectronics fabrication. To satisfy these requirements simultaneously, significant improvements in controlling key plasma parameters are essential. Pulsed plasmas exhibit considerable potential to meet the majority of the scaling challenges, while leveraging the broad expertise developed over the years in conventional continuous wave plasma processing. Comprehending the underlying physics and etching mechanisms in pulsed plasma operation is, however, a complex undertaking; hence the full potential of this strategy has not yet been realized. In this review paper, we first address the general potential of pulsed plasmas for plasma etching processes followed by the dynamics of pulsed plasmas in conventional high-density plasma reactors. The authors reviewed more than 30 years of academic research on pulsed plasmas for microelectronics processing, primarily for silicon and conductor etch applications, highlighting the potential benefits to date and challenges in extending the technology for mass-production. Schemes such as source pulsing, bias pulsing, synchronous pulsing, and others in conventional high-density plasma reactors used in the semiconductor industry have demonstrated greater flexibility in controlling critical plasma parameters such as ion and radical densities, ion energies, and electron temperature. Specifically, plasma pulsing allows for independent control of ion flux and neutral radicals flux to the wafer, which is key to eliminating several feature profile distortions at the nanometer scale. However, such flexibility might also introduce some difficulty in developing new etching processes based on pulsed plasmas. Therefore, the main characteristics of continuous wave plasmas and different pulsing schemes are compared to provide guidelines for implementing different schemes in advanced plasma etching processes ba- ed on results from a particularly challenging etch process in an industrial reactor.