Theses Doctoral

Laser Crystallization of Silicon Thin Films for Three-Dimensional Integrated Circuits

Ganot, Gabriel Seth

The three-dimensional integration of microelectronics is a standard that has been actively pursued by numerous researchers in a variety of technical ways over the years. The primary aim of three-dimensional integration is to alleviate the well-known issues associated with device shrinking in conjunction with Moore's Law. In this thesis, we utilize laser-based and other melt-mediated crystallization techniques to create Si thin films that may be of sufficient microstructural quality for use in monolithic thin-film-based three-dimensional integrated circuits (3D-ICs).

Beam-induced solidification of initially amorphous or polycrystalline Si films has been actively investigated over the years as an unconventional, yet often-effective, technical means to generate Si films with suitable microstructures for fabricating high-performance electronic devices. Two specific melt-mediated methods that are aimed at crystallizing Si thin films for 3D-ICs are presented. One is referred to as "advanced sequential lateral solidification (SLS)" while the other is referred to as "advanced mixed-phase solidification (MPS)" and we show that these approaches can provide a more 3D-IC-optimal microstructure than can be generated using previous deposition and/or crystallization-based techniques.

Advanced SLS, as presented in this thesis, is a novel implementation of the previously-developed directional-SLS method, and is specifically aimed at addressing the microstructural non-uniformity issue that can be encountered in the directional solidification processing of continuous Si films. Films crystallized via the directional-SLS method, for instance, can contain physically distinct regions with varying densities of planar defects and/or crystallographic orientations. As a result, transistors fabricated within such films can potentially exhibit relatively poor device uniformity. To address this issue, we employ advanced SLS whereby Si films are prepatterned into closely-spaced, long, narrow stripes that are then crystallized via directional-SLS in the long-axis-direction of the stripe length. By doing so, one can create microstructurally distinct regions within each stripe, which are then placed within the active channel region of a device. It is shown that when the stripes are sufficiently narrow (less than 2 µm), a bi-crystal microstructure is observed. This is explained based on the change in the interface morphology as a consequence of enhanced heat flow at the edges of the stripe. It is suggested that this bi-crystal formation is beneficial to the approach, as it increases the effective number of stripes within the active channel region.

One issue of fundamental and technological significance that is nearly always encountered in laser crystallization is the formation of structural defects, in general, and in particular, twins. Due to the importance of reducing the density of these defects in order to increase the performance of transistors, this thesis investigates the formation mechanism of twins in rapidly laterally solidified Si thin films. These defects have been characterized and examined in the past, but a physically consistent explanation has not yet been provided. To address this situation, we have carried out experiments using a particular version of SLS, namely dot-SLS. This specific technique is chosen because we identify that it is endowed with a fortuitous combination of experimental factors that enable the systematic examination of twinning in laterally grown Si thin films. Based on extensive microstructural analysis of dot-SLS-crystallized regions, we propose that it is the energetics associated with forming a new atomic layer (during growth) in either a twinned or non-twinned configuration heterogeneously at the oxide/film interface that dictate the formation (or absence) of twins.

The second method presented in this thesis is that of advanced MPS. The basic MPS approach was originally conceived as a way to generate Si films for solar cells as it is capable of producing large, intragrain-defect-free regions that are predominantly (100) surface-textured. However, the location of the grain boundaries of these equiaxed grains is essentially random, and hence, transistors placed within the interior of the grains would exhibit differing performance compared to those that are place across the grain boundaries. To address this, advanced MPS is introduced and demonstrated as a means to manipulate solidification by seeding from {100} surface-oriented regions and to induce limited directional growth. This is accomplished using a continuous-wave laser with a Gaussian-shaped beam profile wherein a central, completely molten region is surrounded by a ``mixed-phase-region'' undergoing MPS. The technique creates quasi-directional material that consists of large, elongated, parallel, {100} surface-oriented grains.

This material is an improvement over previously generated directionally solidified materials, and can allow one to build devices without high angle grain boundaries that are within, and oriented perpendicular to, the active channel. The resulting microstructure is explained in terms of the non-uniform energy density distribution generated by the Gaussian-shaped laser beam, and the corresponding shape and growth of the solid/liquid interface. Based on the observations and considerations from these results, we propose and demonstrate a related scheme whereby a flash-lamp annealing system is utilized in order to induce the advanced MPS condition. This method can potentially time-efficiently crystallize, and create in the process, well-defined regions that are microstructurally suitable for the fabrication of 3D-ICs.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Materials Science and Engineering
Thesis Advisors
Im, James Sungbin
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 17, 2012