Fluorocarbon assisted atomic layer etching of SiO2 and Si using cyclic Ar/C4F8 and Ar/CHF3 plasma
The need for atomic layer etching (ALE) is steadily increasing as smaller critical dimensions and pitches are required in device patterning. A flux-control based cyclic Ar/C4F8 ALE based on steady-state Ar plasma in conjunction with periodic, precise C4F8 injection and synchronized plasma-based low energy Ar+ ion bombardment has been established for SiO2 [Metzler et al., J. Vac. Sci. Technol. A 32, 020603 (2014)]. In this work, the cyclic process is further characterized and extended to ALE of silicon under similar process conditions. The use of CHF3 as a precursor is examined and compared to C4F8. CHF3 is shown to enable selective SiO2/Si etching using a fluorocarbon (FC) film build up. Other critical process parameters investigated are the FC film thickness deposited per cycle, the ion energy, and the etch step length. Etching behavior and mechanisms are studied using in situ real time ellipsometry and x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. Silicon ALE shows less self-limitation than silicon oxide due to higher physical sputtering rates for the maximum ion energies used in this work, ranged from 20 to 30 eV. The surface chemistry is found to contain fluorinated silicon oxide during the etching of silicon. Plasma parameters during ALE are studied using a Langmuir probe and establish the impact of precursor addition on plasma properties.