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Real time nano CHAracterization reLatEd techNloGiEeS

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CHALLENGES (Real time nano CHAracterization reLatEd techNloGiEeS)

Reporting period: 2020-04-01 to 2021-09-30

Strain can be associated to either negative or positive effects in nanoscale electronic devices. Indeed, uncontrolled and unwanted strain may result in a reduction of the performances of the electronic devices as well as in an increased risk of failure of the device. Conversely, controlled strain can be used to tune the properties of materials, e.g. the conductivity, and to realized electronic devices overcoming the current resolution limits of implantation processes, leading to the so-called ‘straintronics’. However, the effective and reliable production of innovative electronic materials and devices, e.g. advanced strained channel transistors or CMOS image sensors, requires nanoscale real-time in-line control of the strain condition of the materials at the nanometer scale, which however is hardly available during manufacturing. Really, the lack of standardized real-time methods for strain characterization represents a current limitation to the realization of reliable electronics devices the to be put on the market and cost effective to the common man. Characterization methods which are required must be cost-and-time-effective and suitable for a manufacturing environment, reliable and representing non-destructive tests (NDT). Strain characterization can be performed through different techniques none of which, nevertheless, is compatible with an effective in-line use in production environments. Indeed, transmission electron microscopy (TEM) offers high resolution and accuracy, but is destructive and requires a careful and time-expensive sample preparation cycle time, thus not being intrinsically suitable as real-time control tool. X-Ray diffraction (XRD) methods are valuable alternatives as they are non-destructive and much more time-effective, but they typically work at the micrometre scale and are therefore not suitable for nanoscale analysis. Optical spectroscopies like Raman, infrared (IR), photoluminescence (PL) spectroscopy, do not have typically enough resolution for the detailed characterization of nano-scaled devices. On the other side, scanning probe microscopy (SPM) methods and in particular atomic force microscopy (AFM) seem to have the potentialities for application in in-line and real-time control, but their use in industrial processes environments is at the present commonly limited to 3D topography. The solution envisaged by CHALLENGES project is based on the improvement and the optimization of methods based on the combination of AFM and optical spectroscopies, i.e. using the signal amplification by localized plasmon resonance at a sharp tip, by developing instruments and metrological protocols for real-time characterization, using plasmonic enhanced Raman, IR and PL signals, capable to enable an increase of speed, sensitivity, spectral range with full cleanroom compatibility within different production environments, to improve devices performance, quality and reliability.

Using a “from the lab to the fab” approach, CHALLENGES will focus on development and demonstration of such technology on three relevant application contexts: Semiconductor Industry, Si Photovoltaics and 2D Materials. The objectives of CHALLENGES include: the realization of a fully automated AFM-based tool, optimized for plasmonic enhancement of optical signals in industrial production environments and not requiring human intervention in routine operations, suitable for the analysis of large samples; the development of optimum coupling solutions of light wavelengths range, AFM tip shapes and unconventional materials to maximize plasmonic resonance, resolution and measurement capability in Silicon devices factory environment; the design and demonstration of a nanoscale metrological NDT system that is compatible with production lines that need cleanroom environment; the training of a neural network capable to locate, with low-resolution hardware, relevant sites on the sample to probe with the high-resolution system, in a machine-learning framework; the demonstration of the process-adapted nanoscale metrology for the manufacturing industry, through its use in three relevant industrial application contexts related to CMOS electronics, Silicon Photovoltaics and 2D Materials.

Overall, the envisaged results are expected to be applicable to many other industrial fields in which the materials control at the nanoscale is required, spanning from those others electronics-related (DRAM, non-volatile memory, MEMS) to those one materials science (additive manufacturing, nanocoatings) and life sciences (implants, softmatter apps) related.
The CHALLENGES activities implementation focused on broadening the scope of AFM techniques useable in semiconductor manufacturing by implementing suitable plasmonic-based technologies are implemented through 6 technical workpackages. In the first 18 months we achieved the following Deliverables:

• Deliverables D1.1-D1.4 describing the chemical/physical parameters and production results of test samples for CMOS, Photovoltaics and applications based on 2D materials
• D2.1 on modelling of laser-tip interaction and optical properties of plasmonic materia
• D3.1-D3.2 on spectrometer requirements and achievable parameters
• Deliverables 6.1 presenting the innovation management
• Deliverables D7.1-D7.3 including PEDR, Communication activities, and Training plan;
• Deliverables D8.1-D8.3 including Project Handbook, catalogue of risks and project collaborative space.

Specific actions have been foreseen to target CHALLENGES Dissemination actions to specific audience, such as the participation to selected events, the organization of workshop and training activities.
Since the beginning of the project, 11 dissemination activities have already been attended,organized and performed by the partners.
The expected impacts explained in detail in section 2.1 of the of the Description of work are still very much relevant in view of the activities and results achieved so far. The first period of the CHALLENGES project has been largely focused on development work to coordinate the flux of actions, information and strategies. The project workflow and results had to face in its first 18 months, two major issues: the first is the well-known Covid-19 pandemic emergency that lasts (and somehow it is still lasting) for several months in all the countries of the Project participants. The second is the partners adjustment (i.e. the withdrawal of LFoundry that has been replaced by ST_C), that caused a delay of several months in the starting of some experimental lines of action. In this paragraph we briefly discuss how (and if) these two issues had changed what we had foreseen during the submission phase. For each major impact the following table will give an overview of the actual expected impacts.