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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Need for LWR metrology standardization: The imec roughness protocol

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As semiconductor technology keeps moving forward, undeterred by the many challenges ahead, one specific deliverable is capturing the attention of many experts in the field: line width roughness (LWR) specifications are expected to be <2 nm in the near term, and to drop below 1 nm in just a few years. This is a daunting challenge and engineers throughout the industry are trying to meet these targets using every means at their disposal. However, although current efforts are surely admirable, we believe they are not enough. The fact is that a specification has a meaning only if there is an agreed methodology to verify if the criterion is met or not. Such standardization is critical in any field of science and technology and the question that we need to ask ourselves today is whether we have a standardized LWR metrology or not. In other words, if a single reference sample were provided, would everyone measuring it get reasonably comparable results? We came to realize that this is not the case and that the observed spread in the results throughout the industry is quite large. In our opinion, this makes the comparison of LWR data among institutions, or to a specification, very difficult. We report the spread of measured LWR data across the semiconductor industry. We investigate the impact of image acquisition, measurement algorithm, and frequency analysis parameters on LWR metrology. We review critically some of the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS) metrology guidelines [such as measurement box length >2 μm and the need to correct for scanning electron microscope (SEM) noise]. We compare the SEM roughness results to AFM measurements. Finally, we propose a standardized LWR measurement protocol - the imec roughness protocol - intended to ensure that every time LWR measurements are compared (from various sources or to specifications), the comparison is sensible and sound. We deeply believe that the industry is at a point where it is imperative to guarantee that when talking about a critical parameter such as LWR, everyone speaks the same language, which is not currently the case.

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