As dictated by the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors, there is an immediate need to develop low dielectric materials for use in metalization and packaging schemes in integrated circuits. The etching characteristics of a family of low dielectric polymers, the parylenes, are discussed. These are good models for polymer dielectrics, and are attractive for packaging applications. Three types of parylene are studied: parylene-N, parylene-C, and parylene AF-4. Parylene films on silicon substrates were etched in a downstream microwave oxygen plasma system. The goal was to characterize the chemical reactions that occurred on the parylene in the afterglow of the microwave oxygen plasma. The effect of temperature on the etch rate of each polymer was studied and an apparent activation energy was determined. The apparent activation energy for the etch process is approximately 7.0 kcal/mol for each polymer. Infrared analysis showed carbonyl formation during etching in the parylene-N and -C. Based on these analyses and the calculated activation energies, it was determined that a likely rate-limiting step in the etching was the ring opening.
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