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Dokumentenidentifikation EP1427011 15.07.2004
EP-Veröffentlichungsnummer 0001427011
Titel Verfahren zur Herstellung von Mikrokanälen in einer integretierten Struktur
Anmelder STMicroelectronics S.r.l., Agrate Brianza, Mailand/Milano, IT
Erfinder D'Arrigo, Giuseppe Alessio Maria, 95030 Sant'Agata Li Battiati (Catania), IT;
Spinella, Rosario Corrado, 95126 Catania, IT;
Arena, Giuseppe, 95125 Catania, IT;
Lorenti, Simona, 95129 Catania, IT
Vertreter derzeit kein Vertreter bestellt
Vertragsstaaten AT, BE, BG, CH, CY, CZ, DE, DK, EE, ES, FI, FR, GB, GR, IE, IT, LI, LU, MC, NL, PT, SE, SI, SK, TR
Sprache des Dokument EN
EP-Anmeldetag 04.12.2002
EP-Aktenzeichen 024257461
EP-Offenlegungsdatum 09.06.2004
Veröffentlichungstag im Patentblatt 15.07.2004
IPC-Hauptklasse H01L 21/764
IPC-Nebenklasse H01L 21/306   H01L 21/3065   B81C 1/00   

Beschreibung[en]
Field of application

The present invention relates to a process for realizing microchannels in an integrated structure.

More specifically, the invention relates to a process for realizing microchannels buried in an integrated structure comprising a monocrystalline silicon substrate.

The invention relates particularly, but not exclusively, to a process for realizing miniaturised microchannels buried in a completely monocrystalline array and the following description is made with reference to this field of application for convenience of illustration only.

Prior art

As it is well known, microchannel arrays are widely used in different systems such as medical systems for fluid administration, devices for biological use for manufacturing miniaturised microreactors, in electrophoresis processes, in ADN chip applications, in integrated fuel cells. Microchannels are used also, for example, for the refrigeration of devices located above microchannels.

In order to form a microchannel system complex procedures are however traditionally required.

In particular the processes for forming these microchannels require the so-called wafer bonding, the use of substrates for forming very deep trenches or the front-back alignment to open structures from the wafer back.

A process for forming microchannels is described for example in the US patent no. 6,376,291 granted on April 23, 2002 in the name of the Applicant herself. In particular, this document describes a process for forming in a monocrystalline silicon body an etching-aid region for the monocrystalline silicon wherein a nucleus region is provided, surrounded by a protective structure and having a port extending along the whole etching-aid region.

According to this document, a polycrystalline layer is grown above the port in order to form a cavity completely embedded in the resulting wafer. Although advantageous from many aspects, the process described by this document is rather complex and it does not allow a completely crystalline final microstructure to be obtained.

The technical problem underlying the present invention is to provide a process for forming microchannels, having such structural and functional characteristics as to overcome the limits and drawbacks still affecting the processes according to the prior art.

Summary of the invention

The solution idea underlying the present invention is to use trench structures to obtain deep silicon cavities characterised by a small surface potr as precursors for forming microchannels in an integrated structure, thus obtaining a completely crystalline final structure.

On the basis of this solution idea the technical problem is solved by a process for forming microchannels in an integrated structure as previously described and defined in the characterising part of claim 1.

The features and advantages of the process according to the invention will be apparent from the following description of an embodiment thereof given by way of non-limiting example with reference to the attached drawings.

Brief description of the drawings

In the drawings:

  • Figure 1 schematically shows a section of an integrated structure with at least a microchannel realized with the process according to the invention;
  • Figures 2, 3A, 3B, 4 are micrographies of the integrated structure of figure 1 in different steps of the process according to the invention;
  • Figure 5 schematically shows an integrated structure with microchannels realized according to an alternative embodiment of the process according to the invention;
  • Figures 6A to 6F schematically show an integrated structure with microchannels in different steps of a further alternative embodiment of the process according to the invention;
  • Figures 7A and 7B show micrographies of the final integrated structure with microchannels realized with the process according to the invention.

Detailed description

With reference to the drawings, and particularly to Figure 1, an integrated structure comprising a plurality of microchannels 10 formed according to the invention is globally and schematically indicated with 1.

In particular, the integrated structure 1 comprises a monocrystalline silicon substrate 2 whereon a monocrystalline silicon layer 3 is grown.

The monocrystalline silicon layer 3 is obtained in turn by epitaxial growth on convenient cavities (rhombohedral in the example shown) of said microchannels 10 without using coverings.

Advantageously, according to the invention, microchannels 10 are completely buried in the substrate 2 and the final integrated structure 1 is completely monocrystalline.

The steps of the process according to the invention for forming buried microchannels 10 in a completely monocrystalline integrated structure 1 are now described. As it will be seen in the following description, advantageously, according to the invention, these miniaturised channels are completely obtained through surface micromachining processes.

The process for forming buried microchannels 10 in an integrated structure 1 according to the invention comprises the steps of:

  • providing a monocrystalline silicon substrate 2;
  • forming on the substrate 2 surface a silicon nitride mask (Hard mask) through a CVD deposition technique;
  • opening of a window having a convenient width L through photolithographic systems and following plasma etching.

In particular, as it is schematically shown in figure 2, above the substrate 2 a window is opened having a width L of about 1 µm and a depth H of about 9 µm along the substrate 2 direction, indicated in figure with the arrow F.

Advantageously according to the invention, the process provides a following plasma etching which uses the Hard mask to form deep trenches 4 in the substrate 2, as shown in figure 2. Trenches 4 have side walls 4A and 4B which are substantially orthogonal to the substrate 2 surface.

The resulting structure then undergoes a further anisotropic wet etching, for example with a TMAH or KOH solution.

It is worth noting that solutions with different KOH or TMAH concentrations etch the monocrystalline silicon of the substrate 2 with speeds which highly depend on the crystallographic orientations and the dopant concentration of the substrate 2 itself. It is thus possible, by using a TMAH- or KOH-solution-etching, to form highly controllable and reproducible tree-dimensional microchannels 10.

Advantageously according to the invention, trenches 4 are the precursors of microchannels 10.

The integrated structure 1, after the anisotropic etching step, has the shape shown in figures 3A and 3B, wherein a single microchannel or a plurality of microchannels are shown respectively.

Advantageously according to the invention, the resulting microchannels 10 have a rhombohedral shape.

In particular, the original shape of trenches 4 (shown in figure 2) turns into a pair of so-called rotated v-grooves V1 and V2, orthogonal to the surface S of the substrate 2 and defining rombohedron-shaped microchannels 10, as shown in figure 3A.

In other words, a bottleneck-shaped deep cavity is obtained, which has a small port on the surface S of the substrate 2.

In practise, while the etching time passes, because of the presence of a so-called under cut under the hard mask on the substrate 2 surface, microchannels 10 open upwardly changing the symmetry between the upper and lower part of their cavity, as schematically shown in figure 4.

It is however possible, by limiting the etching time, to obtain conveniently-sized microchannels by enlarging the depth of original trenches 4. In alternative, it is possible to exploit the so-called etch stop effect by using as hard mask an heavily doped monocrystalline layer, as schematically shown in figure 5, wherein the substrate 2 and microchannels 10 are covered by a heavily doped hard mask layer capable of reducing under cut effects even when the substrate 2 etching time passes.

In a preferred embodiment, the layer 5 has a dopant concentration (for example boron) higher than 1019 atoms/cm3.

It is also possible to use a predeposition on trench 4 walls of a layer of material 6 having a low etching speed (as for example the nitride).

In particular, this alternative embodiment of the process according to the invention provides a deposition of a nitride layer 6 followed by a plasma etching effective to open a region 7 at the trench 4 base, as shown in figures 6A to 6F.

The process for realizing buried microchannels 10 in an integrated structure 1 according to this alternative embodiment of the invention comprises the steps of:

  • providing a monocrystalline silicon substrate 2;
  • growing a monocrystalline silicon layer 3 above the substrate 2;
  • forming a mask by means of a photoelectric film 8 above the monocrystalline silicon layer 3, as schematically shown in figure 6A.

The process provides thus the steps of:

  • opening a plurality of windows through photolithographic systems and following plasma etching (figure 6B);
  • forming a plurality of trenches 4 in correspondence with the plurality of windows (figure 6C).

Advantageously this alternative embodiment of the process according to the invention, provides therefore a deposition step of a nitride layer 6 (figure 6D), a removing step of the layer 6, an etching step of the silicon substrate in a lower part 9 of trenches 4 (figure 6E) and a plasma etching step effective to open a plurality of regions 7 at the trench 4 base (figure 6F).

In particular, the plasma etching step to open regions 7 at the trench 4 base is activated only in the area wherein the nitride layer 6 has been removed. It is essentially a so-called SCREAM process, wherein trench 4 walls are protected to localise the etching only under the trench base.

Even using this alternative embodiment of the process according to the invention, deep regions 7 are thus obtained, which have however a small surface opening in correspondence with the opening areas of trenches 4.

Advantageously according to the invention, trenches 4 are used for an anisotropic etching effective to obtain rhombohedral microchannels. The shape obtained is due to the different etching speeds of the different crystallographic directions.

The side walls 4A and 4B of trenches 4 undergo the etching anisotropic action and the erosion continues with different etching speeds due to the different atom coordination (in terms of bond quantity of silicon atoms directed towards the substrate).

In particular, atoms on planes of the (100) type have coordination two, i.e. two bonds directed towards the substrate, whereas atoms on planes of the (111) type have coordination three, i.e. three bonds directed towards the bulk (that is that they are more bonded).

Trenches 4 are directed along the directions (110) on the wafer surface of the (100) type. Planes (111) find on the wafer surface just the direction (110) and they are rotated with respect to the normal to the surface by 54,7°.

In particular two planes are present, which pass in the upper part of trenches 4 and two planes passing in the lower part. All atoms along these directions have coordination three.

Advantageously according to the invention, the process starts by eroding the atoms having the lowest coordination which are characterised by a higher speed. After reaching the directions of planes (111) passing through/from the upper part and through/from the lower part of trenches 4, speed decreases by about a hundred times since it finds only atoms with coordination three, therefore it continues with the etching speed of planes (111) as shown in figures 3A and 3B. In particular, a microchannel 10 opened towards the substrate 2 surface is obtained.

Advantageously, according to the invention, deep silicon cavities are thus obtained, being characterised by a small surface port whereto it is possible to apply a silicon deposition step to obtain a monocrystalline structure.

In other words, microchannels 10 have a bottle-section-shaped or rhomohedral precursor (obtained as above described) which is easily closed epitaxially by using oxides, polysilicons and other convenient materials.

Advantageously according to the invention, the process provides a further epitaxial new growth step corresponding to the material used to close the upper part of the microchannel 10, as shown in figure 7A. It is thus possible to obtain completely buried monocrystalline silicon microchannels 10.

Figure 7B shows for completeness the channel profile before (10A) and after (10B) the epitaxial new growth step. It happens thus that the monocrystalline material deposition occurs consistently also inside the microchannel 10.

It is also possible to close the upper part of microchannels by using other deposition techniques such as oxide or polysilicon or nitride deposition.

In conclusion, the process for realizing microchannels 10 buried in an integrated structure 1 according to the invention allows, thanks to the resulting etching form, the structure of the microchannel under the substrate 2 surface to be enlarged, but to keep, at the same time, the etching port small by means of trenches 4. The surface microchannel closing is thus performed by growing epitaxially the material.

Finally, advantageously according to the invention, the integrated structure 1 is completely epitaxial even above microchannels 10 and it is performed by exploiting a deep cavity characterised by a small surface opening, which can be obtained in several kinds of processes, as well as an easy epitaxial new growth of this cavity.


Anspruch[en]
  1. A process for realizing microchannels (10) buried in an integrated structure (1) comprising a monocrystalline silicon substrate (2)characterised in that it forms in said substrate (2) at least a trench (4) and it obtains said microchannels (10) starting from a deep cavitycharacterised by a small surface port obtained through anisotropic etching of said at least one trench (4), said microchannels (10) being completely buried in said substrate (2) in a completely monocrystalline structure.
  2. A process according to claim 1, characterised in that it comprises the steps of:
    • depositing a mask above said substrate (2);
    • opening of windows having a convenient width (L);
    • plasma etching which uses said mask to form said trenches (4) having side walls (4A, 4B) being essentially orthogonal to the surface of said substrate (2);
    • wet anisotropic etching to form, starting from said trenches (4), said microchannels (10), said anisotropic etching step providing different etching speeds due to the different atom coordination.
  3. A process according to claim 1, characterised in that it further comprises a convenient epitaxial new growth step effective to close the upper part of said microchannels (10).
  4. A process according to claim 1, characterised in that it further comprises an oxide, polysilicon or nitride deposition step effective to close the upper part of said microchannels (10).
  5. A process according to claim 1, characterised in that said anisotropic etching step turns said side walls (4A, 4B) of said trenches (4) into a pair of rotated v-grooves (V1, V2) orthogonal to a surface (S) of said substrate (2) and defining rombohedron-shaped microchannels (10).
  6. A process according to claim 2, characterised in that said plasma etching step is performed with a TMAH or KOH solution.
  7. A process according to claim 2, characterised in that said opening step of windows having a convenient width (L) is performed through photolitographic systems and following plasma etching.
  8. A process according to claim 2, characterised in that said deposition step of a mask above said substrate (2) provides a silicon nitride deposition through the CVD deposition technique.
  9. A process according to claim 2, characterised in that said deposition step of a mask above said substrate (2) provides an heavily doped monocrystalline layer (5) deposition step.
  10. A process according to claim 9, characterised in that said heavily doped monocrystalline layer (5) has a dopant concentration higher than 1019 atoms/cm3.
  11. A process according to claim 1, characterised in that it further comprises a deposition step of a layer of material (6) having a low etching speed.
  12. A process according to claim 11, characterised in that it further comprises a plasma etching step effective to open a region (7) at said trenches (4) base.
  13. a process according to claim 11, characterised in that it comprises a removing step of said layer (6) and in an etching of said substrate (2) in a lower part (9) of said trenches (4) before said plasma etching step.
  14. An integrated structure (1) comprising at least a monocrystalline silicon substrate (2) wherein microchannels (10) are formed,characterised in that said microchannels (10) are formed through the process according to one of claims 1 to 16 and they are completely buried inside said substrate (2).
  15. An integrated structure (1) according to claim 14, characterised in that said microchannels (10) have a rhombohedral shape.






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