New Infrared Tool Measures Silicon Wafer Thickness

Jul 13, 2005
New Infrared Tool Measures Silicon Wafer Thickness

In the last few years, semiconductor circuit features have shrunk to sub-100 nanometer dimensions, while the size of the thin silicon wafers that these circuits are constructed on has grown from 200 millimeters (mm) to 300 mm (about 12 inches). The payoff is a higher yield of finished devices from fewer wafers.

Image: A new NIST calibration system under development used infrared laser light to precisely measure the thickness of 300 millimeter silicon wafers. Changes in color within the spatial map above represent changes in wafer thickness. Green represents the average wafer thickness, while red, orange and yellow areas are thicker, and turquoise and blue areas are thinner. Credit: Q. Wang, U. Griesmann/NIST

The tough part, however, is to make wafers substantially larger while simultaneously meeting higher quality control specifications. The optics and materials for “printing” nanoscale circuit lines require that the wafers used are perfectly flat and of uniform thickness. To help the semiconductor industry meet its 2010 quality control roadmap goals, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently developed a new instrument that accurately measures differences in thickness across a 300 mm wafer with an excellent repeatability of 5 nm. The researchers hope the tool, with further refinements, will allow them to establish a new calibration service for “master wafers” used in the industry to measure wafer thickness.

The NIST researchers will describe the instrument, the Improved Infrared Interferometer, or IR3 for short, at a technical conference* in late July. Like all interferometers, the IR3 uses intersecting waves of light to create interference patterns, which in turn can be used as a ruler to measure nanoscale dimensions. While most interferometers use red laser light, the IR3 uses infrared laser light. And unlike visible light, these much longer wavelengths pass right through a silicon wafer. This means that IR3 can illuminate the top and bottom on a 300 mm wafer and produce a detailed spatial map of differences in thickness in one pass. Conventional tools require spinning the wafer and measuring at multiple locations.

The NIST researchers make precision measurements of the wafer’s index of refraction—the amount that light is “bent” as it passes through the silicon—as a critical step in correctly interpreting the interference patterns. Increased precision in the refractive index measurement will be necessary before “absolute” measurements of thickness rather than relative differences will be possible with the new instrument.

*Q. Wang, U. Griesmann and R. Polvani. Interferometric thickness calibration of 300 mm silicon wafers. ASPE Summer Topical Meeting on Precision Interferometric Metrology (July 20-22, 2005).

Source: NIST

Explore further: Galaxy dust findings confound view of early Universe

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Galaxy dust findings confound view of early Universe

12 hours ago

What was the Universe like at the beginning of time? How did the Universe come to be the way it is today?—big questions and huge attention paid when scientists attempt answers. So was the early-universe ...

Evidence mounts for quantum criticality theory

Jan 30, 2015

A new study by a team of physicists at Rice University, Zhejiang University, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Florida State University and the Max Planck Institute adds to the growing body of evidence supporting ...

Scaling up armor systems

Jan 30, 2015

Dermal modification is a significant part of evolution, says Ranajay Ghosh, an associate research scientist in the College of Engineering. Almost every organism has something on its skin that provides important ...

Seeking cracks in the Standard Model

Jan 30, 2015

In particle physics, it's our business to understand structure. I work on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and this machine lets us see and study the smallest structure of all; unimaginably tiny fundamental partic ...

The first optically synchronised free-electron laser

Jan 30, 2015

Scientists at DESY have developed and implemented an optical synchronisation system for the soft X-ray free-electron laser FLASH, achieving facility-wide synchronisation with femtosecond precision. The performance ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.