As integrated circuit sizes decrease below 0.25 microns, device performance will no longer improve at the same rate as for past generations because of RC interconnect delay which becomes significant as compared to the intrinsic gate delay. The parallel approaches to partially address this fundamental problem are to use a lower resistance metal (i.e., copper instead of aluminum) and to use a dielectric material with a dielectric constant significantly below that of dense silica (∼4). Recently, considerable progress has been made in development of thin films of nanoporous silica (also known as aerogels or low density xerogels) for these ILD and IMD applications. Advantages of these materials include high thermal stability, small pore size, and similarity to conventional spin-on deposition processes, spin-on glass precursors and final material (silica). The dielectric constant of nanoporous silica can be tailored between ∼1 and 3 which allows its’ implementation at multiple technology nodes in integrated circuit manufacture starting with the 0.18 micron node.
Research and development efforts at Nanoglass over the last several years have focused on; 1) simpler and more reproducible deposition processes, 2) a more complete understanding of processing-property relationships for this material, 3) scale-up of manufacturing to yield a range of precursor products with stability for at least six months and very high purity, and 4) working with customers to integrate this material into both aluminum/gapfill and copper/damascene process flows. Nanoglass has now developed a new process which considerably reduces the number of process steps and allows independent control of both film thickness and porosity. The current status of process and precursor development and device integration efforts for nanoporous silica is discussed.