Ultimate scaling of TiN/ZrO2/TiN capacitors: Leakage currents and limitations due to electrode roughness
In this paper, we investigate the influence of electrode roughness on the leakage current in TiN/high-K ZrO2/TiN (TZT) thin-film capacitors which are used in dynamic random access memory cells. Based on a microscopic transport model, which is expanded to incorporate electrode roughness, we assess the ultimate scaling potential of TZT capacitors in terms of equivalent oxide thickness, film smoothness, thickness fluctuations, defect density and distribution, and conduction band offset (CBO). The model is based on three-dimensional, fully self-consistent, kinetic Monte Carlo transport simulations. Tunneling transport in the bandgap of the dielectric is treated, which includes defect-assisted transport mechanisms. Electrode roughness is described in the framework of fractal geometry. While the short-range roughness of the electrodes is found not to influence significantly the leakage current, thickness fluctuations of the dielectric have a major impact. For thinner dielectric films they cause a transformation of the dominant transport mechanism from Poole-Frenkel conduction to trap-assisted tunneling. Consequently, the sensitivity of the leakage current on electrode roughness drastically increases on downscaling. Based on the simulations, optimization of the CBO is suggested as the most viable strategy to extend the scalability of TZT capacitors over the next chip generations.