In the semiconductor industry, shrinking geometries and increasing process complexity have greatly increased the demand for TEM analysis of specific submicron regions. Until recently, samples of this nature have been difficult if not impossible to prepare. We have combined cross-sectional TEM sample preparation (XTEM) and the precise material sputtering of focussed ion beam milling (FIB) to thin samples to electron transparency. We call this sample preparation technique FIBXTEM.
Three advantages of this technique are: 1) The area of interest can be analyzed in the scanning electron microscope before final thinning; 2) Any specific defect area becomes a candidate for TEM analysis, including failed sub-micron structures; and 3) Samples are generally artifact-free and of uniform thickness.
Key elements of the FIBXTEM technique include precision planar polishing, unique holders for mounting and transferring samples between systems, and the FIB-induced deposition of a sacrificial protective layer over the area of interest during ion thinning.
This technique extends the use of TEM analysis into new areas of semiconductor process development and failure analysis. Recent applications for materials problem solving and failure analysis are discussed.