UV curing of low-k dielectrics presents a unique challenge in that the cure process is expected to do the impossible – increase hardness, modulus, cohesive strength, adhesion and reliability, decrease water absorbtion and dielectric constant, remove porogens (for porogen containing films), improve dielectric breakdown and chemical stability, all while minimizing shrinkage and contributions to film stress. Achieving this, in general, requires optimization of all of the cure parameters, such as UV spectral intensity, temperature, time, pressure, background gas, and process sequence, as well as the formulation of the low-k material itself. The spectral dependence of many of these important parameters will be discussed. A good figure of merit for modulus and k-value is the ratio of modulus/k-value. If one plots the spectral response of this ratio, one finds it peaks at a specific wavelength range. In principle it is possible to measure the UV spectral response of all of the critical parameters (not just modulus and k-value) and by overlaying these responses together determine what the proper UV exposure wavelength ranges should be. An example of this will be shown for an idealized porogen containing low-k material, for modulus, k-value, porogen removal and porogen crosslinking. A real low-k dielectric system has many more wavelength parameters to consider and the problem of bulb spectral intensity optimization becomes complex. It is also found that the relative intensity of the important wavelength bands also plays a significant role, requiring a great deal of spectral optimization experiments.
UV cure performance is also dependent on cure temperature, time, background gases and ironically, the deposition or post-deposition bake temperature. Most cure parameters such as modulus, hardness, leakage, adhesion, etc, have a strong and generally exponential dependence on cure temperature. As a result, most UV cures are performed at the highest temperature allowable as defined by thermal budget constraints and copper voiding thresholds. Background ambient can also play a critical role in the UV cure, especially for porous low-k materials and those containing porogens. Changes in composition of the background gases can alter interface. The ultimate in performance is obtained when the low-k material formulation itself is included as a key parameter in the cure optimization. By optimizing the material, UV spectrum, and cure parameters together, significant improvements can be made.
In conclusion, UV curing cannot be implemented without serious consideration to the wavelength dependence on many critical process factors. The interdependence of all components that makeup the optical system such as the wavelengths employed, light source technology, chamber design and ironically, the dielectric film itself must be considered. Only with these factors in mind, can the full benefit of UV curing be realized.