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Lecture 10

Surface Micromachining-1
Surface Micromachining
! Basic process sequence (poly-Si)
Fabricating a poly-Si anchor
Passivation layer
PSG-phosphosilicate glass
Structural material (poly-Si)-dry etching for patterning
Spacer etching or release
Generic principle of surface micromachining
LPCVD of poly-Si
! Stiction
! Sacrificial layer
! Sealing processes
Surface Micromachining

Principal steps in polysilicon surface micromachining

Surface Micromachining
Surface Micromachining
! Description: Surface micromachining means the fabrication of
micromechanical structures by deposition and etching of thin structural
and sacrificial films. Thus simple microstructures like beams or
membranes as well as complex structures like linkages or encapsulated
resonators can be fabricated on top of a silicon substrate. Polysilicon is
usually used as microstructural material and silicon dioxide (or glass)
is used as sacrificial layer.
! The main features of the surface micromachining technology are the
small microstructure dimensions and the opportunity to integrate
micromechanics and microelectronics on the same chip. By use of
VLSI compatible batch processing, low cost microstructure fabrication
can be achieved for high volume applications.
Surface Micromachining
Example: fabrication of Free standing polysilicon beam
Surface Micromachining
Surface Micromachining

In surface micromachining the Si substrate is primarily used

as a mechanical support upon which the micromechanical
elements are fabricated.
The three-dimensional structures are mainly located on the
surface of the Si wafer and consist of thin films.
The prime advantage of surface micromachined structures is
their easy integration with IC components, since the wafer
surface is also the working area for IC elements.
There are three approaches for the construction of MEMS
using surface micromachining :
(1) Sacrificial Layer Technology.
(2) Incorporation of IC technology and Anisotropic Wet
(3) Dry Etching Methods.

In most cases it uses a certain material as the structural

material for the fabrication of free-standing structures.
Sacrificial layer technology also utilizes another material
as a sacrificial material that is used during processing to
realize some specific design requirements, however it does
not constitute any part of the final device.
The key processing steps are :
(i) Deposition and patterning of the sacrificial layer
on substrate.
(ii) Deposition and definition of the structural layer.
(iii) Removal of the sacrificial layer by lateral etching.
Processes With One Sacrificial Layer and One Structural Layer
Take the example of a cantilever :

(1) Simple Process

(2) Incorporation of an Anchor
(3) Incorporation of Bushings
(4) Isolation from Substrate
Surface Micromachining Material Systems
Surface micromachining requires a compatible set of structural
materials, sacrificial materials and chemical etchants.
The structural materials must possess the physical and chemical
properties that are suitable for the desired application. In
addition, the structural materials must have satisfactory
mechanical properties ; e. g., high yield and fracture stresses,
minimal creep and fatigue, good wear resistance.
The sacrificial materials must also have good mechanical
properties to avoid device failure during fabrication. These
properties include good adhesion and low residual stresses in
order to eliminate device failure by delamination and/or
The etchants must have excellent etch selectivity and they must be
able to etch off the sacrificial materials without affecting the
structural ones. The etchants must have proper viscosity and
surface tension characteristics.
Common Material Systems
(1) Poly-Si/Silicon Dioxide
This is the most common material system : LPCVD deposited
poly-Si as the structural material and thermally grown or LPCVD
deposited oxide as the sacrificial material.
The oxide is readily dissolved in HF without the poly-Si being
Advantages :
- Both materials are used in IC processing and, therefore, their
deposition technologies are readily available.
- Poly-Si has excellent mechanical properties and can be doped for
various electrical applications.
- The oxide can be thermally grown and CVD deposited at a wide
temperature range (~ 200 C to ~ 1200 C) which is very useful for
various processing requirements.
- The material system is compatible with IC processing.
Together with this material system silicon nitride is often used for
electrical insulation.
(2) Silicon Nitride/Poly-Si

Here LPCVD silicon nitride is used as the structural

material, whereas poly-Si is the sacrificial material.

In this case Si anisotropic etchants such as KOH and

EDP are used to dissolve poly-Si.

(3) Tungsten/Silicon Dioxide

CVD deposited tungsten is used as the structural

material with the oxide as the sacrificial material.

HF is used for removing the oxide.

(4) Polyimide/Aluminum

Polyimide is the structural material and aluminum is the

sacrificial material.

Acid-based aluminum etchants are used to dissolve the

aluminum sacrificial material.

Advantages :

- Polyimide has a small elastic modulus which is ~ 50

times smaller than that of poly-Si.
- Polyimide can take large strains before fracture.
- Both polyimide and aluminum can be prepared at low
temperatures (< 400 C).

A disadvantage of polyimide is its viscoelastic characteristics;

it creeps.
Processes With Two Sacrificial Layers and Two Structural Layers

Take the example of a rotor :

(i) Center-Pin Bearing
(ii) Flange Bearing
The 2+1/2 Polysilicon Process
The 2+1/2 poly process requires three poly-Si depositions, two
silicon dioxide depositions and one silicon nitride deposition along
with six patterning steps.
We take the example of a center-pin side-drive micromotor.

- Variable-capacitance side-
drive micromotors require
electrically conducting materials
for the rotor and the stator; this
is satisfied by heavily P-doped
- The stator poles need to be
electrically isolated from the
rotor, the substrate, and one
another; LPCVD silicon nitride
will do this job.
Side-drive micromotor :
Process Flow
Basic Process Sequence (poly-Si)
! Blanket n+ diffusion of Si substrate
(ground plane) n
! Passivation layer (e.g. SiO2 , Si3N4,
LPCVD Si3N4 on top of SiO2) n+
! Opening up the passivation layer for n
contacts (observe color change or
hydrophobic/hydrophilic behavior): wet Lm
wet (BHF) tSiO2
dry (SF6) Photoresist Lm + 2tSiO2
! Strip resist


Basic Process Sequence (poly-Si)
! Deposition of a sacrificial layer- PSG
phosphosilicate glass (PSG)
! Densification at 950 C for 30-60
min in wet oxygen
! Base window etching in BHF for
anchors (taper might be needed,
reflow, plasma etch conditions,
gradient in the etch rate)
! Structural material deposition e.g.
poly-Si (doped or undoped) from Structural layer
(CVD at about 600C , 73 Pa and
125 sccm at about 100/min).
! Anneal of the poly-Si at 1050C for
1 hour to reduce stress in the
SiH4 Si + 2H2
Basic Process Sequence (poly-Si)
! Doping: in-situ, PSG sandwich and
ion implantation
! Patterning of structural material
e.g. RIE, say, CF4-O2
! Release step, selective etching of
spacer layer e.g. in diluted HF

Ri Rm


R S ( m / min) >> R m ( m / min) >> R i ( m min)

Generic principle of surface
Etchants-Spacer and Microstructural Layer
Etchant Buffer/Isolation Spacer Microstructure
Buffered HF LPCVD Si3N4/thermal PSG Poly-Si Sacrificial layer definition
(5:1,NH4F:conc.HF) SiO2 Si
RIE using CHF3 LPCVD LP CVD CVD Tungsten
BHF (6:1) Si3N4 SiO2 Etch access
Si3N4/thermal SiO2
Ferric Chloride Thermal SiO2 Cu Polyimide
HF LPCVD PSG Polyimide
Si3N4/thermal SiO2 Polyimide diaphragm
Acid/Nitric Acid(PAN or
Thermal SiO2 Al PE CVD Si3N4
deposition Si
Ammonium Iodide Thermal SiO2 Au Ti
/Iodine Alcohol
EDP Thermal SiO2 Poly-Si SiO2
Releasing diaphragm:
phosphoric/acetic acid/nitric acid
LPCVD of poly-Si

! Hot wall, horizontal reactor

! Reaction rate controlled--at
lower pressures and well
controlled temperatures
(100 to 200 wafers)
! Poly-Si deposits everywhere
requiring periodic cleaning
(e.g. every 20 runs if each
run deposits 0.5 m)
! Attractive capillary forces
! Van der Waals forces (dipole-dipole interactions between
molecules) are responsible for the stiction of hydrophobic
! Hydrogen bonding is the dominant adhesion mechanism for
hydrophilic surfaces
! Stiction during release: A
Surface tension during drying
pulls movable members together
(See also room temperature B

Stand-off bumps
Sacrificial polymer
Sacrificial poly-Si links to stiffen the
structures D
HF vapor
Freeze-drying water/methanol mixtures
Super critical cleaning E

! Stiction after release:

Hydrophobic monolayers Si
Rough surfaces Phosphosilicate glass

Bumps Polysilicon
Stiction Prevention
! Phase-change release method
At supercritical region, the liquid anf
vapor phases cease to exist as distinct
For CO2, the supercritical region is
T>31.1oC and P>72.8 atm
Mulhern et al. (1993) made simple Poly-Si
structures using an LTO sacrificial layer and
the LTO is HF etched and the structures
rinsed in DI water and without letting them
dry. The water was exchanged with methanol
by dilution and then transferred to a pressure
vessel in which the methanol was replaced by
liquid CO2 at 25oC and 1,200 psi. Then the
contents of the pressure vessel were heated to
35oC and CO2 was vented. By this way, free
standing poly0Si cantilever beams up to 850
m in length could be release without stiction
Stiction Prevention
! Geometry/process-specific release methods