The characteristics of an organic low-k dielectric during investigation by focused ion beam (FIB) are discussed for the different FIB application modes: cross-section imaging, specimen preparation for transmission electron microscopy, and via milling for device modification. It is shown that the material is more stable under the ion beam than under the electron beam in the scanning electron microscope (SEM) or in the transmission electron microscope (TEM). The milling of the material by H2O vapor assistance is strongly enhanced. Also by applying XeF2 etching an enhanced milling rate can be obtained so that both the polymer layer and the intermediate oxides can be etched in a single step.

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