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Atomic Layer Etching: Rethinking the Art of Etch

Leveraging plasma has made ALE a thousand times faster than earlier approaches.

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Atomic layer etching (ALE) is the most advanced etching technique in production today. In this Perspective, we describe ALE in comparison to long-standing conventional etching techniques, relating it to the underlying principles behind the ancient art of etching. Once considered too slow, we show how leveraging plasma has made ALE a thousand times faster than earlier approaches. While Si is the case study ALE material, prospects are better for strongly bound materials such as C, Ta, W, and Ru. Among the ALE advantages discussed, we introduce an ALE benefit with potentially broad application—the ALE smoothing effect—in which the surface flattens. Finally, regarding its well-established counterpart of atomic layer deposition (ALD), we discuss the combination of ALE and ALD in tackling real world challenges at sub-10 nm technology nodes.

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This article was published in The Journal of Physical Chemistry
J. Phys. Chem. Lett. 2018, 9, 4814−4821



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