Gas Assisted Etching (GAE) is the enabling technology for High Aspect Ratio (HAR) circuit access via milling in Focused Ion Beam (FIB) circuit modification. Metal interconnect layers of microelectronic Integrated Circuits (ICs) are separated by Inter-Layer Dielectric (ILD) materials, therefore HAR vias are typically milled in dielectrics. Most of the etching precursor gases presently available for GAE of dielectrics on commercial FIB systems, such as XeF2, Cl2, etc., are also effective etch enhancers for either Si, or/and some of the metals used in ICs. Therefore use of these precursors for via milling in dielectrics may lead to unwanted side effects, especially in a backside circuit edit approach. Making contacts to the polysilicon lines with traditional GAE precursors could also be difficult, if not impossible. Some of these precursors have a tendency to produce isotropic vias, especially in Si. It has been proposed in the past to use fluorocarbon gases as precursors for the FIB milling of dielectrics. Preliminary experimental evaluation of Trifluoroacetic (Perfluoroacetic) Acid (TFA, CF3COOH) as a possible etching precursor for the HAR via milling in the application to FIB modification of ICs demonstrated that highly enhanced anisotropic milling of SiO2 in HAR vias is possible. A via with 9:1 aspect ratio was milled with accurate endpoint on Si and without apparent damage to the underlying Si substrate.

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