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Specimen survivability is a primary concern to those who utilize atom probe tomography (APT) for materials analysis. The state-of-the-art in understanding survivability might best be described as common-sense application of basic physics principles to describe failure mechanisms. For example, APT samples are placed under near-failure mechanical-stress conditions, so reduction in the force required to initiate field evaporation must provide for higher survivability—a common sense explanation of survivability. However, the interplay of various analytical conditions (or instrumentation) and how they influence survivability (e.g., decreasing the applied evaporation field improves survivability), and which factors have more impact than others has not been studied. In this paper, we report on the systematic analysis of a material composed of a silicon-dioxide layer surrounded on two sides by silicon. In total, 261 specimens were fabricated and analyzed under a variety of conditions to correlate statistically significant survivability trends with analysis conditions and other specimen characteristics. The primary result suggests that, while applied field/force plays an obvious role in survivability for this material, the applied field alone does not predict survivability trends for silicon/silicon-dioxide interfaces. The rate at which ions are extracted from the specimen (both in terms of ions-per-pulse and pulse-frequency) has similar importance.
The semiconductor industry has seen tremendous progress over the last few decades with continuous reduction in transistor size to improve device performance. Miniaturization of devices has led to changes in the dopants and dielectric layers incorporated. As the gradual shift from two-dimensional metal-oxide semiconductor field-effect transistor to three-dimensional (3D) field-effect transistors (finFETs) occurred, it has become imperative to understand compositional variability with nanoscale spatial resolution. Compositional changes can affect device performance primarily through fluctuations in threshold voltage and channel current density. Traditional techniques such as scanning electron microscope and focused ion beam no longer provide the required resolution to probe the physical structure and chemical composition of individual fins. Hence advanced multimodal characterization approaches are required to better understand electronic devices. Herein, we report the study of 14 nm commercial finFETs using atom probe tomography (APT) and scanning transmission electron microscopy–energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (STEM-EDS). Complimentary compositional maps were obtained using both techniques with analysis of the gate dielectrics and silicon fin. APT additionally provided 3D information and allowed analysis of the distribution of low atomic number dopant elements (e.g., boron), which are elusive when using STEM-EDS.