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Anisotropic etching of crystalline silicon in alkaline solutions

Part I: Orientation dependence and behaviour of passivation layers and Part II: Influence of dopants
: Seidel, H.; Csepregi, L.; Heuberger, A.; Baumgärtel, H.

Journal of the Electrochemical Society 137 (1990), Nr.11, S.3616-3632
ISSN: 0013-4651
ISSN: 1945-7111
ISSN: 0096-4786
Fraunhofer ISIT ()
anisotropic etching; etching rate; KOH; LiOH; NaOH

The anisotropic etching behaviour of single-crystal silicon and the behaviour of SiO2 and Si3N4 in an ethylenediamine-based solution as well as in aqueous KOH, NaOH, and LiOH were studied. The crystal planes bounding the etch front and their etch rates were determined as a function of temperature, crystal orientation, and etchant composition. A correlation was found between the etch rates and their activation energies, with slowly etching crystal surfaces exhibiting higher activation energies and vice versa. For highly concentrated KOH solutions, a decrease of the etch rate with the fourth power of the water concentration was observed. Based on these results, an electrochemical model is proposed, describing the anisotropic etching behavior of silicon in all alkaline solutions. In an oxidation step, four hydroxide ions react with one surface silicon atom, leading to the injection of four electrons into the conduction band. These electrons stay localized near the crystal surface due to t he presence of a space charge layer. The reaction is accompanied by the breaking of the backbonds, which requires the thermal excitation of the respective surface state electrons into the conduction band. This step is considered to be rate limiting. In a reduction step, the injected electrons react with water molecules to form new hydroxide ions and hydrogen. It is assumed that these hydroxide ions generated at the silicon surface are consumed in the oxidation reaction rather than those from the bulk electrolyte, since the latter are kept away from the crystal by the repellent force of the negative surface charge. According to this model, monosilicic acid Si(OH)4 is formed as the primary dissolution product in all anisotropic silicon etchants. The anisotropic behavior is due to small differences of the energy levels of the backbond surface states as a function of the crystal orientation.