Further to previous work, which demonstrated the ability to engineer the in- and out-of-plane stress components in PECVD silicon nitride, this paper reports on the control of stress in a metal-nitride-metal sandwich. The addition of a symmetric metallisation to the core nitride layer provides additional functionality by enabling electrical connectivity and electrostatic transduction. This represents a widely applicable structural layer for CMOS-compatible surface micromachining.
The use of advanced test structures coupled with wafer curvature measurements has allowed for detailed analysis of the stress components within the metal-nitride-metal sandwich and enables predictive engineering of the mechanical properties of the structural layer. Relationships between the in- and out-of-plane stress components of the metal-nitride-metal sandwich as a function of the nitride RF deposition power are reported and discussed. In comparison to values measured for nitride-only, a -30MPa/μm stress gradient offset is observed. A mechanism for the decrease in the stress gradient with the addition of the metallisation is proposed and compares well to modelling.
The optimised metal-nitride-metal sandwich can be repeatably engineered to realise low tensile in-plane stress (100MPa) and low out-of-plane stress gradient (0 ± 10MPa/μm). The effective Young's Modulus of the metal-nitride-metal sandwich was determined to be 150GPa; and a value of 195GPa was calculated for the nitride layer using analytical modelling. Work to further reduce the in-plane stress whilst maintaining low stress gradient is in progress by independently tuning the strain of the metal layers.