Thin film anomalies cause many device failures but they are often difficult to see. In this article, the authors explain how they found and identified an 8 to 10 nm film of tantalum causing pin shorts in a majority of ASIC modules from a particular lot. Initial attempts to delayer some of the failed modules resulted in the loss of the failure signal. It was then decided to use a focused ion beam to selectively mill through the interlayer dielectric. During milling, a secondary electron image revealed anomalous material between the fingers of a power transistor, which was subsequently identified as tantalum. Such defects, as the authors explain, are common in damascene processes when materials are not properly removed during etching.

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