Due to the continuously decreasing cell size of DRAMs and concomitantly diminishing thickness of some insulating layers new failure mechanisms appear which until now had no significance for the cell function. For example high resistance leakage paths between closely spaced conductors can lead to retention problems. These are hard to detect by electrical characterization in a memory tester because the involved currents are in the range of pA. To analyze these failures we exploit the very sensitive passive voltage contrast of the Focused Ion Beam Microscope (FIB). The voltage contrast can further be enhanced by in-situ FIB preparations to obtain detailed information about the failure mechanism. The first part of this paper describes a method to detect a leakage path between a borderless contact on n-diffusion and an adjacent floating gate by passive voltage contrast achieved after FIB circuit modification. In the second part we will demonstrate the localization of a DRAM trench dielectric breakdown. In this case the FIB passive voltage contrast technique is not limited to the localization of the failing trench. We can also obtain the depth of the leakage path by selective insitu etching with XeF2 stopped immediately after a voltage contrast change.

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