In this paper, we present an AFM based subsurface measurement technique that can be used for overlay and critical dimensions (CD) measurements through optically opaque layers. The proposed method uses the surface elasticity map to resolve the presence and geometry of subsurface structures. To improve the imaging performance of the AFM based subsurface measurements, we made use of photothermal excitation of the AFM cantilever together with a frequency modulation scheme. The experimental results show a significant improvement in the quality of the image, which leads to a more accurate and reliable CD and overlay measurement.
Image Based Overlay (IBO) measurement is one of the most common techniques used in Integrated Circuit (IC) manufacturing to extract the overlay error values. The overlay error is measured using dedicated overlay targets which are optimized to increase the accuracy and the resolution, but these features are much larger than the IC feature size. IBO measurements are realized on the dedicated targets instead of product features, because the current overlay metrology solutions, mainly based on optics, cannot provide sufficient resolution on product features. However, considering the fact that the overlay error tolerance is approaching 2 nm, the overlay error measurement on product features becomes a need for the industry. For sub-nanometer resolution metrology, Scanning Probe Microscopy (SPM) is widely used, though at the cost of very low throughput. The semiconductor industry is interested in non-destructive imaging of buried structures under one or more layers for the application of overlay and wafer alignment, specifically through optically opaque media. Recently an SPM technique has been developed for imaging subsurface features which can be potentially considered as a solution for overlay metrology. In this paper we present the use of Subsurface Ultrasonic Resonance Force Microscopy (SSURFM) used for IBO measurement. We used SSURFM for imaging the most commonly used overlay targets on a silicon substrate and photoresist. As a proof of concept we have imaged surface and subsurface structures simultaneously. The surface and subsurface features of the overlay targets are fabricated with programmed overlay errors of ±40 nm, ±20 nm, and 0 nm. The top layer thickness changes between 30 nm and 80 nm. Using SSURFM the surface and subsurface features were successfully imaged and the overlay errors were extracted, via a rudimentary image processing algorithm. The measurement results are in agreement with the nominal values of the programmed overlay errors.