Etching with electron beam-generated plasmas: Selectivity versus ion energy in silicon-based films
In the ideal case, plasma-enhanced atomic layer etching enables the ability to not only remove one monolayer of material but also leave adjacent layers undamaged. This dual mandate requires fine control over the flux of species to ensure efficacy, while maintaining an often arduously low ion energy. Electron beam-generated plasmas are well-suited for etching at low ion energies as they are generally characterized by highly charged particle densities (1010-1011 cm-3) and low electron temperatures (<1.0 eV), which provide the ability to deliver a large flux of ions whose energies are <5 eV. Raising the ion energy with substrate biasing thus enables process control over an energy range that extends down to values commensurate with the bond strength of most material systems. In this work, we discuss silicon nitride etching using pulsed, electron beam-generated plasmas produced in argon-SF6 backgrounds. We pay particular attention to the etch rates and selectivity versus oxidized silicon nitride and polycrystalline silicon as a function of ion energy from a few eV up to 50 eV. We find the blanket etch rate of Si3N4 to be in the range of 1 A/s, with selectivities (versus SiO2 and poly-Si) greater than 10:1 when ion energies are below 30 eV.