Photolithography for Device Fabrication

Indtroduction

Photolithography is a technique used in semiconductor device fabrication. A light sensitive layer is added to a semiconductor wafer. Light is applied to the parts of the light-sensitive layer to remove the layer where needed. After this is done, etching can be performed exclusively to the parts of the wafer without a layer of the photo-sensitive layer.

Photoresist

The light-sensitive layer added to the wafer is called the photoresist. To apply photoresist to a wafer, first clean the wafer. The photoresist should cover most of the wafer. This should be done while the wafer is sitting in the spinner. The spinner rotates the wafer so that the photoresist has an even coating. Then the spun wafer is placed on a heating plate. The RPM and temperature of the hot plate are important. The photoresist data sheet can indicate the required spin rate and temperature.

Photoresist Applied to Wafer

When the photoresist layer is uneven, an interference pattern can be seen on the wafer, as shown below. The interference pattern shown is less than ideal. It is normal however that there will be more photoresist build-up at the edges of the wafer. The excess photoresist at the edges of the wafer can be removed using acetone and a q-tips or swabs.

Wafer with Interference Pattern after applying photoresist

There is also the question of whether to cut the wafer before applying photoresist or afterwards. The advantage of cutting the wafer afterwards is that the built up layer of photoresist at the edges will not be used, since the cut wafer will be taken from the middle. A disadvantage of cutting the wafer afterwards is that cutting the wafer can cause damage to the photoresist layer. Also, the issue of built up photoresist at the edges of the cut wafer will remain. If the cut wafer is not round, there will be more build-up at corners of the cut wafer. If using a silicon wafer, cutting a clean square will be more difficult than when using a III-V semiconductor. Generally, one can create a square or rectangle by making a notch in the side of the wafer. The lattice of the material will cause a break to be a straight line.

Mask Aligner

The mask is what is used to select which parts of the photoresist layer will be removed and which will stay. Masks are ordered from a company such as Photronics with a .gds file for the die. The mask and the cut wafer are placed in a mask aligner. Here, a vacuum press is used. UV light is directed at the wafer from above the mask aligner.

Developing

The UV light from the mask aligner breaks the bond of the photoresist where it was applied. Now the broken-bond photoresist needs to be removed using a developer solution. The amount of time that the wafer is rinsed in the developer solution is critical. Too much time can cause the photoresist to be removed further than needed. This is especially important for small features, such as a waveguide.

Wafer soaked in CD-26 Developer solution

Next, we can view the wafer using a microscope. The combination of the thickness of the photoresist, how even the photoresist layer is, the type of photoresist, how fast it was spun, how hot it was baked on the hot plate, the mask, the developer solution, how long it was soaked in the developer solution and how much care was given to the wafer during the process, including the presence of dust will all contribute to the overall result of the wafer. Below, curved waveguides are shown on the microscope. These are layers of photoresist. For a higher magnification, an electron microscope can be used.

Curved Waveguides – Photolithography
Photolithography Playlist

Photonic Components: Multimode Interference Waveguides

Multimode Interference Waveguides, also termed MMI Couplers, are used to split light from one waveguide into two or more paths. MMI couplers are designed to match the power at each output port. The length, width and positioning of the output ports are critcal to the design of the MMI coupler. The MMI coupler is also difficult to build in device fabrication due to the sensitivity of the width of the multimode waveguide to the performance.

Below are two MMI couplers, designed in Rsoft. The 3dB Coupler has two output ports of half the input power. The approach for both couplers is to monitor the optical power at each output port in the simulation. Initially, we design the length of the multimode section to be longer than estimated. The length of the multimode waveguide section is reduced to the length at which the optical power in each of the output paths is equal.

3dB Coupler

Simulation Result: 3dB Coupler
Rsoft CAD Setup: 3dB Coupler

MMI Coupler

rsoft7.1
rsoft7.2

Arrayed Waveguide Grating for Wavelength Division Multiplexing

Arrayed Waveguide Grating (or AWG) is a method for wavelength division multiplexing or demultiplexing. The approach for multiplexing is to use unequal path lengths to generate a phase delay and constructive interference for each wavelength at an output port of the AWG. Demultiplexing is done with the same process, but reversed.

Arrayed Waveguide Gratings are commonly used in photonic integrated circuits. While Ring Resonators are also used for WDM, ring resonators see other uses, such tunable or static filters. Further, a ring resonator selects a single wavelength to be removed from the input. In the case of AWGs, light is separated according to wavelength. For many applications, this is a more superior WDM, as it offers great capability for encoding and modulating a large amount of information according to a wavelength.

Both the design of the star coupler and the path length difference according to the designed wavelength division make up the significant amount of complexity of this component. RSoft by Synopsys includes an AWG Utility for designing arrayed waveguide gratings.

RSoft AWG Utility Guide

Using this utility, a star coupler is created below:

Star Coupler for AWG designed in RSoft using AWG Utility

Methods of Optical Coupling

An optical coupler is necessary for transferring optical energy into or out of a waveguide. Optical couplers are used for both free-space to waveguide optical energy transmission as well as a transmission from one waveguide to another waveguide, although the methods of coupling for these scenarios are different. Some couplers selectively couple energy to a specific waveguide mode and others are multimode. For the PIC designer, both the coupling efficiency and the mode selectivity are important to consider for optical couplers.

Where the coupling efficiency η is equal to the power transmitted into the waveguide divided by the total incident power, the coupling loss (units: dB) is equal to
L = 10*log(1/η).

Methods of optical coupling include:

  • Direct Focusing
  • End-Butt Coupling
  • Prism Coupling
  • Grating Coupling
  • Tapered Coupling (and Tapered Mode Size Converters)
  • Fiber to Waveguide Butt Coupling

Direct Focusing for Optical Coupling

Direct focusing of a beam to a waveguide using a lens in free space is termed direct focusing. The beam is angled parallel with the waveguide. This is also one type of transverse coupling. This method is generally deemed impractical outside of precision laboratory application. This is also sometimes referred to as end-fire coupling.

End-Butt Coupling

A prime example of end-butt coupling is for a case where a laser is fixated to a waveguide. The waveguide is placed in front of the laser at the light-emitting layer.

Prism Couplers

Prism coupling is used to direct a beam onto a waveguide when the beam is at an oblique incidence. A prism is used to match the phase velocities of the incident beam and the waveguide.

Prism Coupling

Grating Couplers

Similar to the prism coupler, the grating coupler also functions to produce a phase match between a waveguide mode and an oblique incident beam. Gratings perturb the waveguide modes in the region below the grating, producing a set of spatial harmonics. It is through gratings that an incident beam can be coupled into the waveguide with a selective mode.

Grating Coupler in RSoft

Tapered Couplers

Explained in one way, a tapered coupler intentionally disturbs the conditions of total internal reflection by tapering or narrowing the waveguide. Light thereby leaves the waveguide in a predictable manner, based on the tapering of the waveguide.

Tapered Mode Size Converters

Mode size converters exist to transfer light from one waveguide to another with a different cross-sectional dimension.

Butt Coupling

The procedure of placing the waveguide region of a fiber directly to a waveguide is termed butt coupling.

Rsoft Tutorials 5. Pathway Monitoring (BeamPROP)

When stringing multiple parts together, it is important to check a lightwave system for losses. BeamPROP Simulator, part of the Rsoft package will display any losses in a waveguide pathway. Here we have an example of an S-bend simulation. There appears to be losses in a few sections.

rsoft6.2

Here, the design for the S-bend waveguide has a few locations that are leaking, as indicated by the BeamPROP simulation.

rsoft6.1

The discontinuities are shown below, which are a possible source of loss:

 

After fixing these discontinuities, the waveguide can be simulated again using BeamPROP. In fact the losses are not fixed. This loss is called bending loss.

rsoft5.9

rsoft5.10

Bending loss is an important topic for wavguides and becomes critical in Photonic Integrated Circuits (PIC).

Rsoft Tutorials 2. Simulating a Waveguide using BeamPROP and Mode Profile

BeamPROP is a simulator found in the Rsoft package. Here, we will use BeamPROP to calculate the field distributions of our tapered waveguides. Other methods built withing Rsoft CAD are will also be explored.

 

Tapered Waveguide

The tapered waveguide that we are simulating is found below. We will use the BeamPROP tool to simulate the field distributions in the waveguide. We will also use the mode calculation tool to simulate the mode profile at each end of the waveguide.

BeamPROP Simulation Results

rsoft3.3

Rsoft CAD

rsoft3.4

Mode Profile Simulation

The mode simulation tool is found on the sidebar:

rsoft3.5

Before choosing the parameters of the Mode Simulator, let’s first take a look at the coordinates of the beginning and end of the waveguide. This dialog is found by right-clicking on the component. The window shows that the starting point along the z axis is 1 and the ending point is 43 (the units are actually micrometers, by the way). We will choose locations along the waveguide close to the ends of the waveguide at z equals 1.5 and 42.5.

rsoft3.6

Parameter selection window:

rsoft3.7

Results at z = 1.5:

rsoft3.72

Results at z = 42.5:

rsoft3.71

Rsoft Tutorials 1. Getting Started with CAD (tapered waveguide)

Rsoft is a powerful tool for optical and photonic simulations and design. Rsoft and Synopsys packages come with a number of different tools and simulators, such as BeamPROP, FullWAVE and more. There are also other programs typically found with Rsoft such a OptoDesigner, LaserMOD and OptSim. Here we focus on the very basics of using the Rsoft CAD environment. I am using a student version, which is free for all students in the United States.

New File & Environment

When starting a new file, the following window is opened. We can select the simulation tools needed, the refractive index of the environment (“background index”) and other parameters. Under dimensions, “3D” is selected.

rsoft1.02

The 3D environment is displayed:

rsoft1.01

Symbol Editor

rsoft1.2

On the side bar, select “Edit Symbols.” Here we can introduce a new symbol and assign it a value using “New Symbol,” filling out the name and expression and selecting “Accept Symbol.”

rsoft1.1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building Components

Next we will draw a rectangle, which will be our waveguide.  Select the rectangular segment below:

rsoft1.2

Now, select the bounds of the rectangle. See example below:

rsoft1.3

Editing Component Parameters

Right click on the component to edit parameters. Here, we will now change the refractive index and the length of the component. The Index Difference tab is the difference in refractive index compared to the background index, which was defined when we created the file. We’ll set it to 0.1 and since our background index was 1.0, that means the refractive index of the waveguide is 1.1. Alternatively, the value delta that was in the box may be edited from the Symbol menu. We also want to use our symbol “Length” to define the length of our waveguide. We also want this waveguide to be tapered, so the ending vertex will be set to width*4. Note that width may also be edited in the symbol list.

rsoft1.4

Here, we have a tapered waveguide:

rsoft1.5