Although wafer curvature measurement provides a rapid and accurate determination of stress in a uniform thin film, the technique is not applicable to patterned films. To study the stress in metal lines, and the effect of passivation on that stress, it is necessary to use X-ray diffraction. To obtain the sensitivity and precision required, a generalized focusing diffractometer (GFD), that had been developed especially for work on thin films, was used in this study.
The elastic strain tensors for aluminum and aluminum-silicon films and patterned lines were determined by X-ray diffraction. The corresponding stress tensors were calculated with the use of the known elastic constants of aluminum. The effect of various oxide and oxynitride passivations was investigated. Passivation over uniform metal films has very little effect, while passivation over patterned metal results in substantial triaxial tensile stress in the metal. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, high compressive stress in the passivation does not result in additional tensile stress in the metal. A possible explanation for the frequently observed deleterious effect (increased tendency for formation of cracks and voids) of highly compressive silicon nitride and silicon oxynitride passivations will be discussed.