Dielectric Systems touts radical new alternative for low-k

By Paula Doe
WaferNews Contributing Editor

Though it’s hard to figure out just what they’re really doing, a Silicon Valley startup claims to have a radical new low-k material that offers k values of 2.2 – without all the problems of porosity.

The newest entry into the low-k fray is Dielectric Systems, Fremont, CA, with a non-porous organic dielectric with a k value of 2.2, made by a CVD-like process. The company says it delivered the first tool this month to its joint development effort with a major microprocessor maker, who is also part of a key international consortium.

Though cagey about revealing technical details, sales and marketing manager Chris Nygren says, “The process is similar to CVD, but it does not use a plasma.” He adds, “The material is organic – it uses no silicon whatsoever.”

Instead, the process is based on transport polymerization, where a series of monomers is formed into a polymer. The technology is apparently related to some used in the deposition of organic films in the flat panel display industry. DSI uses a platform from PRI Automation for its proprietary process module, developed by company founders Chiu Ting, chairman, and Chung Lee, president. Ting’s background includes stints at Intel, AMD and UMC. Lee comes from Questar and GE.

The company says its new material is thermally and chemically stable, with a modulus of 8 GPa. It claims it can extend the k value down to less than 2.0 with only small modification to the process module.

“And if we go to 2.0,” says Nygren, “the hardness modulus will go up.”

DSI also says the process has a low cost of ownership, using very small amounts of precursor, at less than 300mg/micron for the 200mm version, or less than a tenth that of other processes.

The company is currently running demos for other targeted customers, and expects first data streams in June on the material’s ability to integrate. Target to get a production tool into manufacturing is 4Q02 to 1Q03.

It’s also working with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and has signed alliance agreements with other complementary capital equipment suppliers to investigate the low-k film’s post-deposition etch characteristics, CMP survivability and the like.

“Chipmakers are hungry for solutions,” says Nygren. “They’re becoming more open minded to revolutionary solutions.”



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