Focused Ion Beam (FIB) chip circuit editing is a well-established highly specialized laboratory technique for making direct changes to the functionality of integrated circuits. A precisely tuned and placed ion beam in conjunction with process gases selectively uncovers internal circuitry, create functional changes in devices or the copper wiring pattern, and reseals the chip surface. When executed within reasonable limits, the revised circuit logic functions essentially the same as if the changes were instead made to the photomasks used to fabricate the chip. The results of the intended revision, however, can be obtained weeks or months earlier than by a full fabrication run. Evaluating proposed changes through FIB modification rather than proceeding immediately to mask changes has become an integral part of the process for bringing advanced designs to market at many companies. The end product of the FIB process is the very essence of handcrafted prototyping. The efficacy of the FIB technique faces new challenges with every generation of fabrication process node advancement. Ever shrinking geometries and new material sets have always been a given as transistor size decreases and overall packing density increases. The biggest fundamental change in recent years was the introduction of the FinFET as a replacement for the venerable planar transistor. Point to point wiring change methodology has generally followed process scaling, but transistor deletions or modifications with the change to Fins require a somewhat different approach and much more careful control due to the drastic change in height and shape. We also had to take into consideration the importance of the 4th terminal, the body-tie, that is often lost in backside editing. Some designs and FET technology can function acceptably well when individual devices are no longer connected to the bulk substrate or well, while others can suffer from profound shifts in performance. All this presents a challenge given that the primary beam technology improvements of the fully configured chip edit FIB has only evolved incrementally during the same time period. The gallium column system appears to be reaching its maximum potential. Further, as gallium is a p-type metal dopant, there are limitations to its use in close proximity to certain active semiconductor devices. Amorphous material formation and other damage mechanisms that extend beyond what can be seen visually when endpointing must also be taken into account [1]. Device switching performance and even transmission line characteristics of nearby wiring levels can be impacted by material structural changes from implantation cascades. Last year our lab participated in a design validation exercise in which we were asked to modify the drive of a multi-finger FinFET device structure to reduce its switching speed impact on a circuit. The original sized device pulled the next node in the chain too fast, resulting in a timing upset. Deleting whole structures and bridging over/around them is commonly done, but modifications to the physical size of an FET device is a rare request and generally not attempted. It requires a level of precision in beam control and post-edit treatment that can be difficult to execute cleanly. Once again during a complex edit task we considered the use of an alternate ion beam species such as neon, or reducing the beam energy (low kV) on the gallium tool. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have easy access to a versatile viable replacement column technology grafted to a fully configured edit station. And while there should be significantly reduced implant damage and transistor functional change when a gallium column FIB is operated at lower accelerating potential [2], the further loss of visual acuity due to the reduced secondary emission, especially when combined with ultra-low beam currents, made fast and accurate navigation near impossible. We instead chose the somewhat unconventional approach of using an ultra-low voltage electron beam to do much of the navigation and surface marking prior to making the final edits with the gallium ion beam in a dual-beam FIB tool. Once we had resolved how to accurately navigate to the transistors in question and expose half of the structure without disturbing the body-tie, we were able to execute the required cut to trim away 50% of the structure and reduce the effective drive. Several of the FIB modified units functioned per the design parameters of a smaller sized device, giving confidence to proceed with the revised mask set. To our surprise, the gallium beam performed commendably well in this most difficult task. While we still believe that an inert beam of similar characteristics would be preferable, this work indicates that gallium columns are still viable at the 14 nm FinFET node for even the most rigorous of editing requirements. It also showed that careful application of e-beam imaging on the exposed underside of FinFET devices could be performed without degrading or destroying them.

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