Cleaning Silicon Wafers for Research & Development

university wafer substrates

The Cleaning of Silicon Wafers

The process of Cleaning Silicon Wafers must be carried out under the strictest conditions, keeping in mind the fact that these delicate components are prone to damage.

UniversityWafer, Inc. subtrates are clean room sealed for quick use. Please let us know what specs work for you or buy online.

Moreover, they are also highly sensitive, making them extremely fragile. Hence, semiconductor manufacturing businesses must follow a specific cleaning protocol to ensure a good quality of finished products. In general, the process of Cleaning Silicon Wafers involves heating an acetone bath to 55degC and soaking the wafer in the solution for about 10 minutes.

Get Your Quote FAST!



Why is it Important to Clean Silicon Wafer Surfaces?

The removal of contaminants and particles that may be deposited on the wafer surfaces or maybe leftover after carrying out wafer operations has to be achieved. This has to be done to reduce the chances of defects in the final products that are to be obtained. The unwanted particles or impurities may block the surfaces where etching has to take place in the process undesirable results are inevitable. Also, since the size of the current silicon wafers microstructure is small, the effect if the contaminants or deposited particles also will impact on the diffusion process. In addition to the stated reasons, cleaning the wafers aids in reducing the integrated circuits element dimensions. The final product having been exposed to the stated inhibitors is expected to have reduced reliability, stability, and quality.

Semiconductor Wet Cleaning Process

Wafer cleaning task is one of the most repeatedly carried out procedure that is undertaken when fabricating wafers. With the ever-changing technology and device shrinking property, cleaning processes do get complicated each time. The cleaning process should not only be done to the wafers each time as the machines and equipment’s used also have to be cleaned. Wafer contaminants range from particles with a diameter range of 0.1 to 20 microns, organic and inorganic contaminants, and impurities. Cleaning methods can be categorized as either wet or dry methods. Wet cleaning does involve solvents, acids, or water. Dry cleaning on the other hand uses lasers, aerosols, or ozonated chemistries. The wet silicon wafer cleaning method is the most commonly used way to clean wafers. The dry methods are most suitable for metalized surfaces (Karen Reinhardt, 2008).

Wafer cleaning has to be done without introducing any additional impurities or contaminants to the final surface.

Wet Silicon Wafer Cleaning Methods

With wet cleaning, the surface impurities can be removed without creating rough surfaces afterward. However, after the solvents have been used, they will have to be disposed thus this method generates wastes. Below is a simplified approach that explains the whole process.

Solvent Cleaning

The use of solvents to remove impurities on the surface of the silicon wafer is classified as the most effective. This step is done first in the many subsequent cleaning procedures that have to be done. Organic impurities or oils are particularly effectively eliminated by using this method. The drawback of the solvent cleaning method is that residues of the solvent may be deposited on the wafer surface after cleaning. To counteract this, particular solvents have to be used i.e. methanol and acetone. The two solvents do serve different roles in the cleaning process. One is used to make sure that contaminants have been removed while the other solvent makes sure that the substrate material is returned to its expected state. Two separate ultra-sonic baths have to be made such that one has acetone while the other has got methanol. The bath that has acetone is heated to attain temperatures of fifty-five degrees Celsius after which the wafer to be cleaned has to be sunk in the warm bath. After ten minutes inside the acetone bath, the wafer is dipped inside the second bath that has methanol for five minutes. Lastly, the wafer is rinsed with deionized water then blow-dried using nitrogen.

RCA Cleaning

This process is used to remove organic materials, heavy or alkali metal ions that may be present on the surface of the wafer after the solvent cleaning process. The unwanted particles are removed through ultrasonic agitation. Sulphuric acid and hydrogen peroxide in ratio ranges of between 1:1 to 1:4 is used where the silicon wafer is dipped into such a solution for about ten minutes while the temperature conditions are maintained between one hundred and a hundred and fifty degrees Celsius. The next step involves dipping the wafer into a solution of hydrochloric acid and water mixed in the ratio 1: 10 and the process takes place for one minute. Water is then used to rinse the wafer surface at room temperature conditions. De-ionized water is preferred as compared to ordinary water as it gives the best results (Bera, 2019). The objective of the RCA cleaning process is to oxidize the silicon to provide a thin oxide layer on the wafer surface that will protect the wafer.

Figure 1: RCA cleaning process. (Bera, 2019)

Figure 1: RCA cleaning process.  (Bera, 2019)

c. Hydrofluoric Acid Dip

This final stage uses hydrofluoric acid in a glass dip to remove the silicon oxide layer chemically. A solution made up of twenty milliliters of the acid with four hundred and eighty milliliters of water is prepared. Then the resulting wafer is immersed inside for two minutes after which running deionized water rinses the wafer. To verify that the contaminants have been removed, a wettability test is done.

2.Dry cleaning methods of silicon wafers.

Dry silicon wafer cleaning methods are less harmful to the environment as few chemicals are needed. Theoretically, large wafers are better suited to the dry-cleaning process as opposed to smaller ones. This is due to the higher need for more solvents, water, or waste disposal associated with increased size. Despite cost reduction, dry cleaning is also compatible with most of the processes of technology being used currently.

a. Laser cleaning

In this method, a laser is used to eliminate the contaminant from the wafer surface by lifting it. Inert gas is then used to sweep away the impurity from the surface. Through the operation, the surface of the wafer may be surface roughened slightly. The photoresist films, metallic ions, or chemical impurities are also removed in the process.

Future developments in cleaning silicon wafers

It is predicted that wet cleaning processes will still be dominant in the coming future owing to their unquestionable cleaning capability. Despite this, research is being done to find out better methods that will minimize chemical usage when cleaning to address the growing environmental conservation plea by relevant authorities. It is anticipated that dry cleaning strategies will be used to complement the limitations involved as a result of wet cleaning processes.

Semiconductor Cleaning Process

To learn more about the semiconductor cleaning process. Contact us.

Bera, B. (2019). Silicon Wafer Cleaning: A Fundamental and Critical Step in Semiconductor Fabrication Process. International Journal of Applied Nanotechnology, 8-13.
Karen Reinhardt, W. K. (2008). Handbook of Silicon Wafer Cleaning Technology Materials Science and Process Technology Series. William Andrew .



What is The Process for Cleaning Silicon Wafers?

The first step of this process is not essential. However, it is necessary to clean the surface of the wafer to extend the life of cleaning solutions. After cleaning, the wafers should be immersed in the preferred film stripping solution. The final step is to rinse the silicon wafers with deionized water. This step is also necessary because it may result in the deposition of residues, and it is also necessary to dry the silicon wafers after cleaning.

The second step of the cleaning process is to apply a solution of hydrofluoric acid. cleaning silicon wafersThis solution has an oxidizing effect on the surface of silicon wafers and is best suited for cleans that do not require too much acid concentration. A 20% nitric acid solution is used to remove organic residues. The solution is made of five parts water and two parts hydrogen peroxide. The silicon wafer is immersed in this solution for about six to ten minutes. Once the solution dries, the silicon wafer is rinsed in deionized water.

RCA Clean

The clean is a standard cleaning process for wafers. It must be performed before the high-temperature processing steps. The RCA cleaning is performed by heating the RCA solution to 75 or 80 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes. The RCA clean mixture combines with the metal and changes its zeta potential. This results in a thin layer of silicon dioxide on the surface and metallic contamination on the surface of the silicon wafer, which will be removed in the following step.

The process of Cleaning Silicon Wafers is complicated. The materials are highly fragile and can easily become contaminated. Various processes are employed to clean the silicon wafers. Usually, the three-step procedure is used to remove oxidized residues from the substrate. This method uses a chemical solution with sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide to make the surface water compatible. It also removes photoresist films and other impurities.

The process of cleaning Silicon Wafers involves using a deionized water bath. This water is highly acidic and must be free of sulfur and other chemicals. The water is essential for the proper functioning of the oxidized solution. It is used in the oxidizing treatment for silicon wafers. After the slurry is applied, it is rinsed with deionized liquid. The final step is the ozone wash.

Solvents are also used for the cleaning of silicon wafers. They are effective in removing oil, organic particles, and other contaminants from siliRCAcon surfaces. The solvents that are used in this process tend to leave a residue on the silicon surface. So, an alkaline bath is necessary for a proper cleaning of silicon wafers. Aside from ensuring a clean surface, it also removes the impurities.

Silicon Substrate Cleaning Procedure

Wet cleaning is the most popular method for cleaning silicon wafers. It uses caustic solutions to dissolve dirt and other impurities and allows the wafers to be thoroughly cleaned. Ultrasonic cleaning takes as long as 30 minutes, but it should not be used for very long. If the ultrasonic exposure time is too long, it will damage the crystal lattices. Furthermore, excessive exposure to ultrasonic energy may result in the growth of an oxide layer on the silicon wafer.

The cleaning process is the most important part of semiconductor manufacturing. The cleaning process eliminates any particles and contaminants that might affect the finished product. It also reduces the size of integrated circuit elements. A proper cleaning process will ensure a good clean and reduced-size semiconductor. So, it is vital to ensure a clean and efficient manufacturing environment. It is crucial for the success of semiconductor manufacturing. There are many reasons for the importance of a clean wafer.

University of New South South Wales Silicon Cleaning Video