Synergistic damage effects of vacuum ultraviolet photons and O2 in SiCOH ultra-low-k dielectric films

J. Lee, D. B. Graves

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56 Scopus citations


Damage incurred during plasma processing, leading to increases in dielectric constant k, is a persistent problem with porous ultra-low-k dielectric films, such as SiCOH. Although most of the proposed mechanisms of plasma-induced damage focus on the role of ion bombardment and radical attack, we show that plasma-generated vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) photons can play a role in creating damage leading to increases in the dielectric constant of this material. Using a vacuum beam apparatus with a calibrated VUV lamp, we show that 147nm VUV photons impacting SiCOH results in post-exposure adsorption and reaction with water vapour from the atmosphere to form silanol bonds, thereby raising the dielectric constant. Furthermore, the level of damage increases synergistically under simultaneous exposure to VUV photons and O2. The vacuum beam photon fluences are representative of typical plasma processes, as measured in a separate plasma tool. Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy (ex situ) and mass spectrometry (in situ) imply that O2 reacts with methyl radicals formed from scissioned Si-C bonds to create CO 2 and H2O, the latter combining with Si dangling bonds to generate more SiOH groups than with photon exposure alone. In addition, sample near-surface diffusivity, manipulated through ion bombardment and sample heating, can be seen to affect this process. These results demonstrate that VUV photo-generated surface reactions can be potent contributors to ultra-low-k dielectric SiCOH film plasma-induced damage, and suggest that they could play analogous roles in other plasma-surface interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number425201
JournalJournal of Physics D: Applied Physics
Issue number42
StatePublished - Oct 27 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films


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