As development of stacked Nanosheet Gate All-Around (GAA) transistor continues as the candidate technology for future nodes, several key process points remain difficult to characterize effectively. With the GAA device strategy, it is critical to have an inline solution that can provide a readout of physical dimensions that have an impact on the threshold voltage (VT) and yield. Metrology challenges for obtaining these metrics arise from increasingly dense arrays coupled with both high aspect ratios, high numbers of correlated parameters, and increasingly complex 3D geometries. Large area metrology structures can be used for 3D parameters’ process monitoring through techniques such as scatterometry and xray diffraction (XRD) which deliver averaged results over that area, but variation impacting specific devices cannot currently be understood without destructive cross-section. Prior work to characterize the dimensions of these GAA devices has primarily featured optical metrology, X-ray metrology, and critical-dimension scanning electron microscopy (CDSEM), but these techniques have their own challenges at the critical process points. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) had not been utilized due to the aspect ratios and small trench widths which were inaccessible to conventional techniques. However, due to recent advances in scanning and novel probe technologies, AFM is well-suited now to solve these local, three-dimensional challenges. Through this study, we demonstrate AFM characterization of a key process point in the GAA process flow for multiple structures with varying channel lengths, after epitaxial (epi) growth along the Si sidewall. The AFM scan results are compared to CDSEM images for top-down corroboration of topography and to other reference metrology for height correlation. The impact of measured variations in epi height to device performance is also reviewed.
Gate all around stacked nanosheet FET’s have emerged as the next technology to FinFET’s for beyond 7-nm scaling. With EUV technology integrated into manufacturing at 7nm, there is great interest to enable EUV direct print patterning for nanosheet patterning as a replacement to complex double patterning schemes. While front-up sheet pitches and gate pitches expected for the beyond 7nm node fall well within the EUV direct print regime (>40nm), it is unclear if direct print solutions can meet variation requirements at technology minimum sheet widths and gate lengths. Here, we explore the crossover point between direct print EUV and optical/EUV based double patterning processes for sheets and gates in the 40 – 50 nm sheet pitch/CPP regime. We demonstrate that to enable the minimum sheet widths of <20nm required for the technology, direct bright field print with shrink results in high variability. We develop a tone invert process with darkfield sheet print that utilizes a polymerizing etch to reduce variability and achieve sub-20nm sheet widths with reduced variability, comparable to a self-aligned double patterning (SADP) process. With gate length variation requirements being tighter, we show that SADP still yields a considerable improvement in line edge/width roughness over a direct print process. We project EUV technology into the future to quantify improvements that would enable direct printed gates that match SADP. Our results will provide a guideline to down-select patterning processes for the nanosheet front end while optimizing cost and complexity.