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In the path to the introduction of high-k dielectric into IC components, a large number of challenges have still to be solved. Some of the major issues concern the low mobility of carriers and the reliability of the devices. Trapped charges in the stack have been identified as being the cause of these issues. With this in mind, we used Conducting Atomic Force Microscopy, combined with physical analysis to understand the nature of these charges. In this contribution, we have studied the uniformity of thin HfO2 layers, with and without anneal. The Conducting Atomic Force microscopy measurements show spots of higher conductivity. Recording local IV's in those ‘weak’ spots suggests that they consist of positive charge. On the other hand, XPS and ToFSIMS analysis show a diffusion of the interfacial SiO2 upwards into the high-k layer. Finally, the comparison of samples with differing high-k material and crystallinity indicates a strong correlation between the weak spots and the presence of silicon in the film.
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