IBM J. Res. Dev

Two-level BEOL processing for rapid iteration in MRAM development

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The implementation of magnetic random access memory (MRAM) hinges on complex magnetic film stacks and several critical steps in back-end-of-line (BEOL) processing. Although intended for use in conjunction with silicon CMOS front-end device drivers, MRAM performance is not limited by CMOS technology. We report here on a novel test site design and an associated thin-film process integration scheme which permit relatively inexpensive, rapid characterization of the critical elements in MRAM device fabrication. The test site design incorporates circuitry consistent with the use of a large-area planar base electrode to enable a processing scheme with only two photomask levels. The thin-film process integration scheme is a modification of standard BEOL processing to accommodate temperature-sensitive magnetic tunnel junctions (MTJs) and poor-shear-strength magnetic film interfaces. Completed test site wafers are testable with high-speed probing techniques, permitting characterization of large numbers of MTJs for statistically significant analyses. The approach described in this paper provides an inexpensive means for rapidly iterating on MRAM development alternatives to converage on an implementation suitable for a production environment. ©Copyright 2006 by International Business Machines Corporation.