SAN FRANCISCO—Semiconductor capital equipment vendor Applied Materials Inc. Tuesday (Nov. 29) announced a new atomic-layer film treatment that the company claims can reduce chip power consumption and lower the k-value of dielectric films by up to 20 percent.
Applied (Santa Clara, Calif.) said its Producer Onyx film treatment system optimizes the molecular structure of the low-k films that insulate on-chip interconnects.
According to Applied, interconnects account for about one-third of the total power consumed by a chip. Interconnect wires get pushed closer together with each successive technology node, increasing the potential for crosstalk between the adjacent lines, wasting power and restricting switching speeds, according to the company. Reducing capacitance by lowering the k-value of the insulating material that separates and supports interconnects improves performance and battery life, the company said.
"With the Onyx system, we’re offering a unique treatment capability that delivers the most power-efficient interconnects in the industry, while increasing mechanical strength, making the chip robust enough to withstand the challenge of emerging 3-D packaging applications," said Bill McClintock, vice president and general manager of Applied’s Dielectric Systems and Modules business unit. McClintock said multiple customers are already using Producer Onyx systems in pilot production for advanced logic IC manufacturing.
Before Producer Onyx treatment (left) shows exposed sidewalls modified by plasma and chemistry in the etch process, leading to an increase in k value. Following the treatment (right) sidewalls of the film have been restored to the original bulk state. Source: Applied Materials. Applied said its Onyx technology drives carbon and silicon into the porous dielectric film to reinforce the insulating material at the atomic level. In addition to decreasing the k-value of dielectric films by up to 20 percent, the process increases the stiffness of the dielectric, enabling it to withstand the stress of subsequent processes and packaging steps, Applied said.
The Producer Onyx treatment uses a proprietary energy source to drive designer chemistry deep into the film. Applied executives declined to elaborate on the proprietary energy source.