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New Product: Defect inspection tool from KLA-Tencor captures progressive defects on photomasks

17 February 2006 | By Mark Osborne | Product Briefings > Lithography

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Product Briefing Outline: KLA-Tencor has launched its next-generation photomask inspection system, STARlight-2TM. The system is claimed to be the most cost-effective contamination inspection solution in the industry for all types of photomasks, including mainstream extreme resolution enhancement technique (XRET) photomasks, at the 65nm node and below. According to KLA-Tencor the use of a revolutionary image processing technology is at the heart of the systems performance. The system has been designed for the detection of progressive defects--an increasingly critical class of yield killers that impact device yield over time and can cause catastrophic device reliability problems.

Process challenges today include more than just zero-yield occurrences. Chipmakers are challenged by more gradual yield roll-off that deprives them of the highest performance and profit parts. Crystal growth, haze and other progressive defects that cause this problem are escalating, and no solution exists to address them completely. These contaminants form on photomasks from a variety of sources within the mask shop and wafer fab environments. Over time, they grow and multiply as the photomask undergoes constant lithographic exposure, reducing the lithography process window more and more. This phenomenon increases the risk of devices not meeting performance specifications and having serious reliability problems. The combination of 193-nm lithography and 300-mm wafer processing further exacerbates progressive defects since the photomasks endure longer periods of exposure at higher energy--creating an ideal incubator for these contaminants. In addition to finding these elusive defects before they collapse the lithography process window entirely, the revolutionary design of STARlight-2 provides the capabilities needed to meet all of the challenges associated with 65-nm designs, including new XRET strategies and the increase in feature packing density.

Solution: With STARlight-2, customers are not forced to rely on other requalification strategies that put chip yields at risk or result in unnecessary rework and cycle time delays. Its smaller pixel sizes (125nm and 90nm) provide the resolution and sensitivity needed to detect mask contaminants on device layers with the smallest pattern features before they affect the process window or worse, print on the wafer. STARlight-2's improved algorithms also enable contamination detection in high-density patterned areas, which are typically found on XRET masks, and its full-field inspection capability allows inspection in scribes and borders--where progressive defects generally first emerge--as well as on both single-die and multi-die photomasks.

Applications: Photomasks defects and progressive defects at the 65nm node and below.

Platform: STARlight-2TM uses a claimed revolutionary image processing technology.

Availability: February 2006 onwards.

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