29 October 2007

Limits of Cu/low-k interconnects

At submicron level of 250 nm copper with low-k dielectric was introduced to decrease affects of increasing interconnect delay. But below 130 nm technology node interconnect delays are increasing further despite of introducing low-k dielectric. As the scaling increases new physical and technological effects like resistivity and barrier thickness start dominating and interconnect delay increases. Introduction of repeaters to shorten the interconnect length increases total area. The vias connecting repeaters to global layers can cause blockage in lower metal layers. Thus as the technology improves material limitations will dominate factor in the interconnect delay. Increasing metal layer width will cause increase in metallization layer. This can’t be a solution for the problem as it increases complexity, reliability and cost.


Cu low-k dielectric films are deposited by a special process known as Damascene process. Adhesion property of Cu with dielectric materials is very poor. Under electric bias they easily drift and cause short between metal layers. To avoid this problem a barrier layer is deposited between dielectric and Cu trench. Even though it decreases effective cross section of interconnects compared to drawn dimensions, it improves reliability. The barrier thickness becomes significant in deep submicron level and effective resistance of the interconnect rises further. In addition to this increasing electron scattering and self heating caused by the electron flow in interconnects due to comparable increase in internal chip temperature also contribute to increase interconnect resistance.

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