Metal-Assisted Plasma Etching of Silicon: A Liquid-Free Alternative to MACE

2018-04-12T13:56:45Z (GMT) by Julia Sun Benjamin Almquist
For decades, fabrication of semiconductor devices has utilized well-established etching techniques to create complex nanostructures in silicon. Of these, two of the most common are reactive ion etching in the gaseous phase and metal-assisted chemical etching (MACE) in the liquid phase. Though these two methods are highly established and characterized, there is a surprising scarcity of reports exploring the ability of metallic films to catalytically enhance the etching of silicon in dry plasmas via a MACE-like mechanism. Here, we discuss a metal-assisted plasma etch (MAPE) performed using patterned gold films to catalyze the etching of silicon in an SF6/O2 mixed plasma, selectively increasing the rate of etching by over 1000%. The degree of enhancement as a function of Au catalyst configuration and relative oxygen feed concentration is characterized, along with the catalytic activities of other common MACE metals including Ag, Pt, and Cu. Finally, methods of controlling the etch process are briefly explored to demonstrate the potential for use as a liquid-free fabrication strategy.