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Nanoscale characterization of leakage currents in ultra-thin oxide layers for microelectronics

Abstract : Miniaturization of the MOS transistor structure has led to the high thinning of the gate oxide. Hence, degradation and breakdown under electrical stress became one of the important reliability concerns of thin oxide films. The use of characterization techniques allowing to measure leakage currents with a nanometric spatial resolution has shown that breakdown phenomenon of oxides is a highly localized phenomenon. So called “hot spots”, places where the leakage current is very high for a given applied continuous voltage, can be several nanometers wide only. This illustrates why nanometric characterization methods with a nanometer range spatial resolution provide additional information compared to the classical macroscopic characterization. There are two instruments that can be used to do this job, either the Tunneling Atomic Force Microscope (TUNA) or the Conductive Atomic Force Microscope (C-AFM). TUNA which is used in our work is capable to measure very low currents ranging between 60 fA and 100 pA. Our work can be divided into two principle topics: - Electrical characterization of thin high-k oxides (LaAlO3 and Gd2O3) at the nano-scale using the Veeco Dimension 3100 where we have shown that the difference in their elaboration techniques largely influence the electrical behavior of these oxides. - Nano-scale electrical and physical characterization of thin SiO2 thermal oxides in different surrounding ambient, that is in air and under vacuum (≈ 10-6 mbar) using the Veeco E-scope microscope. The influence of the experiment surrounding ambient has been well studied where we have shown that the breakdown phenomena of thin oxide films can be highly reduced under vacuum especially in the absence of the water meniscus on the oxide’s surface under study. Using different AFM modes, it was demonstrated that the existence of the well-known hillock (protrusions) on the oxide’s surface after the application of an electrical stress is a combination of two phenomena: the real morphological modification of the oxide’s surface and the electrostatic force between the trapped charges in the oxide’s volume and the AFM tip. Depending on the current images obtained by TUNA AFM mode, two physical phenomena for the creation of these hillocks have been proposed: the first is the electro-thermal effect and the second is the oxidation of the Si substrate at the Si/oxide interface.
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  • HAL Id : tel-00952841, version 1

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Wael Hourani. Nanoscale characterization of leakage currents in ultra-thin oxide layers for microelectronics. Other. INSA de Lyon, 2011. English. ⟨NNT : 2011ISAL0109⟩. ⟨tel-00952841⟩

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