This paper presents a case study of a customer return that failed functional testing on the production tester. Investigation by applications and design engineering identified several analog circuit blocks where a possible failure mechanism could be located causing the functional failure mode seen at test. The identified circuit blocks all resided in deep n-well structures preventing traditional passive voltage contrast imaging (PVC) from being used to isolate the fault location. Neither functional probing nor active voltage contrast imaging were viable options to isolate the failure mechanism to a specific node. The analyst, having a good understanding of the principles of PVC and the difficulties associated with PVC imaging of deep n-well circuits, took advantage of a design feature in the device to restore the ability to perform passive voltage contrast imaging on these circuits. Using this enhanced PVC capability, two polysilicon capacitors with degraded oxide integrity were easily identified. This degraded oxide was verified to cause abnormal leakage to the substrate by means of nanoprobe analysis. Without identifying and taking advantage of a design feature not intended for failure analysis, locating these damage poly capacitors would have been extremely difficult because existing analysis techniques could only localize the failure to a number of circuit blocks. This paper presents a brief detailed over-view of PVC imaging, the issues with PVC imaging of deep n-well circuits, and an example of a previous attempt to overcome the deep n-well PVC problem. This review is then followed by the case study demonstrating the steps taken to restore PVC capability and concludes with recommendations for design for failure analysis (DFA).

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