Surface Modification: Solving Semiconductor Manufacturing Challenges

A different approach to improve process reliability and speed up time to deployment.


Process reliability and faster technology deployment are two of the most pressing manufacturing challenges currently facing the semiconductor industry. In a world of ever-evolving technology and innovation, engineers are working to transform materials that don’t possess all the desired functions through a method called “surface modification” – the act of modifying a material’s surface in a way that affects its ultimate functioning.

The molecules and atoms that make up the surface of a substance are the ones most likely to suffer the corrosive consequences of being exposed to the substance’s environment. Atoms on the surface phase of a material interact with whatever they touch — both the atoms in the bulk phase of a material and those of any gas, liquid or other material adjacent to them outside the bulk phase.

Surface modification can protect those atoms and strengthen them or alter the surface in ways that affect how the material functions. Through surface modification, roughness can be reduced, functional groups or surface energy modifiers added and patterns changed. All of these changes help alter how a material behaves and what it will do during semiconductor manufacturing.

As a complementary nanotechnology, surface modification also helps other technologies to work optimally. If the chemistry of a surface limits its functionality, surface modification can circumvent those limitations by changing the surface of the material. It can also simplify the processes needed to get the desired end result; for example, modifying the surface of a material may reduce processing steps from 14 to just four.

Coating a surface is one way to modify a material, among other options. Specifically, some of the most effective approaches for surface modification include patterned resist lines and spin-coat/track-friendly processes.

Currently, the coatings developed for patterned resist lines allow reduced roughness, more functional groups, surface energy modifications and a transformed pattern CD. Coatings can also be modified to deliver additional functionality like hydrophobicity, acid or base deposition, or attachment sites for further film growth (layer-by-layer).

As the industry continues exploring the potential of transforming materials, semiconductor manufacturing will continue to see improvements in throughput, costs and problem solving through additional innovations in surface modification techniques.

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