New Plasma Etching System Significantly Expands MIT.nano Process Capabilities | MIT News

To expand the types of materials that researchers can process, MIT.nano has acquired a new SAMCO Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP) Reactive Ion Etching (RIE) System. The instrument was installed and qualified on the third floor of MIT.nano, where it is now available for training and use.

Reactive ion etching is a material removal process performed under low pressure in which a reactive plasma is generated to remove material on the substrate. With RIE inductively coupled plasma, plasma is generated by a magnetic field powered by radio frequency to ionize different gases.

The etching of different materials is determined by the type and amount of gas, with any volatile byproducts removed in the effluent. The SAMCO RIE-230iP ICP burner combines the fluorine, chlorine and bromine chemistries of 11 different process gases to provide broad engraving capabilities for a wide variety of new materials and materials research. The tool has a load interlock system, which allows the reaction chamber to remain under vacuum when loading and unloading substrates. The controlled environment improves process repeatability and throughput, while increasing safety when using corrosive gases.

“The ability of the new SAMCO burner to handle a range of materials gives researchers more flexibility in choosing substrates and films for their devices,” says Jorg Scholvin, deputy director of user services at Fab.nano. “This will significantly expand the processing capabilities available on MIT.nano, particularly when exploring new types of materials and devices.”

The SAMCO RIE engraver adds two new engraving chemistries – hydrogen bromide and nitrogen trifluoride – in addition to allowing the chemistries to be mixed. It can process samples as small as a few millimeters, or wafers up to 8 inches in diameter. Nitrogen trifluoride was added for improved cleaning of the chamber between the etch chemistries and the different substrate materials.

Another feature of this tool is the Integrated Optical Spectrometer (OES), which monitors plasma and gas effluents, informing the researcher when the etch is complete. OES does this by examining the etched material in the optical spectrum; when the signal disappears, all the material has been burned. The new tool also has a circulator that can control the temperature of the substrate from 20 degrees Celsius up to 200 C. This is important because some etching byproducts are not sufficiently volatile unless heated to a high temperature.

The new instrument was purchased with funding from the Lord Foundation of Massachusetts secured by the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

SAMCO is a semiconductor and materials company focused on materials processing and device manufacturing. The SAMCO RIE-230iP burner adds to MIT.nano’s existing SAMCO tool suite, which includes a fluorine chemical burner, chlorine chemical burner, and plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition tool for deposition of thin layers.

For more information on MIT.nano tools and instruments, visit

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