Their recent results* not only will impact the design of future generations of integrated circuits but also lay to rest a long-standing disagreement in results between two different methods for measuring stress in semiconductors.
Mechanical stress and strain in semiconductors and other devices is caused by atoms in the crystal lattice being compressed or stretched out of their preferred positions, a complex—and not always harmful—phenomenon. Stress in the underlying structure of light-emitting diodes and lasers can shift output colors and lower the device’s lifetime. Stress in microelectromechanical systems can lead to fracture and buckling that also truncates their lifespan.
On the other hand, stress is deliberately built into state-of-the-art microcircuits because properly applied it can increase the speed of transistors without making any other changes to the design. “Stress engineering has allowed the semiconductor industry to increase the performance of devices well beyond what was expected with the current materials set,” said NIST research physicist Robert Cook, “thus avoiding the significant engineering problems and expense associated with changing materials.”
Both the good and the bad stresses need to be measured, however, if they’re to be controlled by device designers. As the component size of microcircuits has become smaller and smaller, this has become more difficult—particularly since two different and widely used methods of stress measurement have been returning disparate results. One, electron back scattered diffraction (EBSD), deduces underlying stress by observing the patterns of electrons scattered back from the crystal planes. The other, confocal Raman microscopy (CRM), measures minute shifts in the frequency of photons that interact with the atomic bonds in the crystal—shifts that change depending on the amount of stress on the bond. The NIST team used customized, highly sensitive versions of both instruments in a series of comparison measurements to resolve the discrepancies.
The key issue, they found, was depth of penetration of the two techniques. Electron beams sample only the top 20 or 30 nanometers of the material, Cook explained, while the laser-generated photons used in CRM might penetrate as deep as a micrometer or more. The NIST researchers found that by varying the wavelength of the Raman photons and positioning the focus of the microscope they could select the depth of the features measured by the Raman technique—and when the CRM was tuned for the topmost layers of the crystal, the results were in close agreement with EBSD measurements.
The NIST instruments also demonstrate the potential for using the two techniques in combination to make reliable, nanoscale measurements of stress in silicon, which enables device developers to optimize materials and processes. EBSD, although confined to near-surface stress, can make measurements with resolutions as small as 10 nanometers. CRM resolution is about 10 times coarser, but it can return depth profiles of stress.
* M.D. Vaudin, Y.B. Gerbig, S.J. Stranick and R.F. Cook. Comparison of nanoscale measurements of strain and stress using electron back scattered diffraction and confocal Raman microscopy. Applied Physics Letters 93, 193116. (2008)
Michael Baum | Newswise Science News
Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy
24.03.2017 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core
24.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
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Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
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