Reducing conducting thin film surface roughness for electronics | 3/7/2017 | Staff
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Surface roughness reduction is a really big deal when it comes to fundamental surface physics and while fabricating electronic and optical devices. As transistor dimensions within integrated circuits continue to shrink, smooth metallic lines are required to interconnect these devices. If the surfaces of these tiny metal lines aren't smooth enough, it substantially reduces their ability to conduct electrical and thermal energy—decreasing functionality.

A group of engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are now reporting an advance this week in Applied Physics Letters, from AIP Publishing, in the form of modeling results that establish electrical surface treatment of conducting thin films as a physical processing method for reducing surface roughness.

Roughness - Problem - Years - Currents - Surface

"We've been thinking hard about this roughness problem for many years, since showing that electric currents can be used to inhibit surface cracking," said Dimitrios Maroudas, co-author and a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. "So as soon as we developed the computational tools to attack the full film roughness problem, we got to work."

The group's work focused on using a copper film on a silicon nitride layer to quantify the model parameters for their simulations and make comparisons with available experimental findings, which they were able to reproduce.

Surface - Electromigration - Concept - Maroudas - Transport

"Surface electromigration is the key physical concept involved," Maroudas explained. "It's the directed transport of atoms on the metal surface due to the so-called electron wind force, which expresses the transfer of momentum from the electrons of the metal moving under the action of an electric field to the atoms (ions)—biasing atomic migration."

Think of it as akin to the diffusion of ink in flowing water. "Electromigration's role in the transport of surface atoms is analogous to that of convection due to flow on the transport of ink within the water," Maroudas said. "The combined effects of a well-controlled applied electric field and...
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