Building CFETs With Monolithic And Sequential 3D

Area benefits are significant for future transistor shrinks, but manufacturing challenges remain.


Successive versions of vertical transistors are emerging as the likely successor to finFETs, combining lower leakage with significant area reduction.

A stacked nanosheet transistor, introduced at N3, uses multiple channel layers to maintain the overall channel length and necessary drive current while continuing to reduce the standard cell footprint. The follow-on technology, the CFET, pushes further up the z axis, stacking n-channel and p-channel transistors on top of each other, rather than side by side.

In work presented at December’s IEEE Electron Device Meeting, researchers at TSMC estimated that CFETs give a 1.5X to 2X overall size reduction at constant gate dimensions. [1] Those are significant area benefits for any digital logic, but manufacturing these new transistor structures will be a challenge.

Monolithic 3D integration is the simplest integration scheme, and the one likely to see production first. In monolithic 3D integration, the entire structure is assembled on a single piece of silicon. This approach can also be used to fabricate compute-in-memory designs where memory devices are fabricated as part of the metallization layers for a conventional CMOS circuit. While individual layers in monolithic 3D designs can incorporate new technologies — the integration of ReRAM devices, for example — the overall CMOS flow is preserved. All of the materials and processes used must be compatible with that rubric.

Adding more nanosheets for complementary devices
The overall process in this kind of scheme is similar to a stacked nanosheet transistor flow. It starts with a stack of eight or more alternating silicon and silicon germanium layers (four pairs), compared to a stacked nanosheet NFET or PFET, which might have only four such layers (two pairs). In a CFET flow, however, middle dielectric layer is inserted halfway through the stack.

This layer, separating the n-type and p-type transistors, is probably the most important difference from a standard nanosheet transistor flow. To minimize parasitic capacitance, the middle dielectric layer should be as thin as possible, said imec’s Naoto Horiguchi. If it’s too thin, though, edge placement errors can cause isolation failures, landing contacts for the top devices onto bottom devices. [2]

In TSMC’s process, the Si/SiGe superlattice includes a high-germanium SiGe layer as a placeholder for the middle dielectric. After the source/drain etch, a highly selective etch removes this layer and oxidizes the silicon on either side of it to form the middle dielectric.

The inner spacer recess etch, which follows middle dielectric formation in the TSMC process, indents the SiGe layers relative to the silicon nanosheets, defining the gate length and junction overlap.

While TSMC emphasized it has not yet made fully metallized integrated CFET circuits, it did report that more than 90% of the transistors survived.

Fig. 1: TSMC used monolithic integration to stack NFET and PFET devices. [1]
Fig. 1: TSMC used monolithic integration to stack NFET and PFET devices. [1]

Depositing the nanosheet stack is straightforward. Etching it with the precision required is not. A less-than-vertical etch profile will change the relative channel lengths of the top and bottom devices, leading to asymmetric switching characteristics.

Stacking wafers for more flexibility
The alternative, sequential 3D integration is a bit more flexible. While monolithic 3D integration uses a single device layer, sequential 3D integration bonds an additional tier on top of the first. Sequential 3D integration is different from three-dimensional wafer-level packaging and chip stacking, though. In WLP, the component devices are finished, passivated, and tested. The component chips are fully functional as independent circuits. In sequential 3D integration, the two tiers are part of a single integrated circuit.

Often, though not always, the second tier is an unprocessed bare wafer with no devices at all. Ionut Radu, director of research and external collaborations at Soitec, said his company used its SmartCut process to transfer sub-micron silicon layers. [3] One of the advantages of sequential integration, though, is that it opens the door to other possibilities. For example, the second layer could use a different silicon lattice orientation to facilitate stress engineering for improved carrier mobility. It also could use an alternative channel material, such as GaAs or a two-dimensional semiconductor. And up until the transfer occurs, processing of the second wafer has no effect on the thermal budget of the first.

After bonding, the second tier’s process temperature generally must remain below 500° C. Tadeu Mota-Frutuoso, process integration engineer at CEA-Leti, said researchers were able to achieve this benchmark in a conventional CMOS process by using laser annealing for the source/drain activation steps. [4]

While sequential 3D integration can be used to realize CFET devices, the top layers also can contain independent circuitry. Still, as in monolithic integration, the dielectric layer between the two circuit tiers is a critical process step. Analysts at KAIST found that reducing the thickness of the interlayer dielectric improves heat dissipation. It also facilitates the use of a bottom gate to control the top tier devices. On the other hand, the dielectric layer lies at the interface between the original wafer and the transferred layer. Thickness control depends on the polishing step used to prepare the transfer surface. Such precise control is extremely challenging for CMP. [5]

Re-driving wafers without contamination
While the second circuit tier can be added at any point in the process flow, the insertion point constrains not only the first and second tier devices, but also the fab as a whole. When the second layer does not yet contain devices, alignment to the first layer is relatively easy. In contrast, Horiguchi said, aligning one device wafer on top of another imposes an area penalty to accommodate potential overlay error. The total device thickness of sequential 3D structures tends to be greater, as well.

Returning a first-tier wafer with contacts and other metallization to FEOL tools for fabrication of a second transistor layer poses a substantial cross contamination risk. Even if the top surface is well encapsulated, Mota-Frutuoso explained in an interview that the sidewalls and bevels of the bottom tier can still expose metal layers to FEOL processes. To address this issue, CEA-Leti’s proposes a bevel contamination wrap (BCW) scheme that first cleans the wafer edge, then encapsulates it and the sidewall using a protective oxide layer.


Fig. 2: CEA-Leti’s sequential 3D integration stacked silicon CMOS on an industrial 28nm FDSOI wafer. [4]

Controlling heat dissipation
Heat dissipation is a major challenge for both monolithic and sequential 3D devices. Generalizations are difficult because thermal characteristics depend on the specific integration scheme and even the circuit design. Wei-Yen Woon, senior manager at TSMC, and his colleagues evaluated AlN and diamond as possible thermal dissipation layers. While both have been used in power devices, they are new to CMOS process flows. They achieved good quality columnar AlN films with a low temperature sputtering process, though the columnar structure did impede in-plane heat transport. While diamond offers extremely high thermal conductivity, it also can require extremely high process temperatures. The TSMC group deposited thin films with acceptable quality at BEOL compatible temperatures by using pre-deposited diamond nuclei, but they have not yet attempted to integrate these films with working devices.[6]

What’s next?
In the short term, monolithic 3D integration offers a relatively straightforward path to CFET fabrication, building on existing nanosheet transistor process flows. Even proponents of sequential 3D integration expect the monolithic approach to reach production first. For the longer term, though, the ability to use a completely different material for the second device layer gives device designers many more process optimization knobs.

However it is achieved, the idea that active devices no longer need to confine themselves to a single planar layer has implications far beyond logic transistors. From compute-in-memory modules to image sensors, 3D integration is an important tool for “More than Moore” devices.


[1] S. Liao et al., “Complementary Field-Effect Transistor (CFET) Demonstration at 48nm Gate Pitch for Future Logic Technology Scaling,” 2023 International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM), San Francisco, CA, USA, 2023, pp. 1-4, doi: 10.1109/IEDM45741.2023.10413672.

[2] N. Horiguchi et al., “3D Stacked Devices and MOL Innovations for Post-Nanosheet CMOS Scaling,” 2023 International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM), San Francisco, CA, USA, 2023, pp. 1-4, doi: 10.1109/IEDM45741.2023.10413701.

[3] I. Radu et al., “Ultimate Layer Stacking Technology for High Density Sequential 3D Integration,” 2023 International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM), San Francisco, CA, USA, 2023, pp. 1-4, doi: 10.1109/IEDM45741.2023.10413807.

[4] T. Mota-Frutuoso et al., “3D sequential integration with Si CMOS stacked on 28nm industrial FDSOI with Cu-ULK iBEOL featuring RO and HDR pixel,” 2023 International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM), San Francisco, CA, USA, 2023, pp. 1-4, doi: 10.1109/IEDM45741.2023.10413864.

[5] S. K. Kim et al., “Role of Inter-Layer Dielectric on the Electrical and Heat Dissipation Characteristics in the Heterogeneous 3D Sequential CFETs with Ge p-FETs on Si n-FETs,” 2023 International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM), San Francisco, CA, USA, 2023, pp. 1-4, doi: 10.1109/IEDM45741.2023.10413845.

[6] W. Y. Woon et al., “Thermal dissipation in stacked devices,” 2023 International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM), San Francisco, CA, USA, 2023, pp. 1-4, doi: 10.1109/IEDM45741.2023.10413721.

Related Reading
Will CFETs Help The Industry Go Vertical?
Stacking of nMOS on top of pMOS devices is possible using monolithic or sequential flows. Each has its pros and cons.
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