Controlling the surface roughness of epitaxial SiC on silicon

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Journal Article
Journal of Applied Physics, 2014, 115 (20)
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The surface of cubic silicon carbide (3C-SiC) hetero-epitaxial films grown on the (111) surface of silicon is a promising template for the subsequent epitaxial growth of III-V semiconductor layers and graphene. We investigate growth and post-growth approaches for controlling the surface roughness of epitaxial SiC to produce an optimal template. We first explore 3C-SiC growth on various degrees of offcut Si(111) substrates, although we observe that the SiC roughness tends to worsen as the degree of offcut increases. Hence we focus on post-growth approaches available on full wafers, comparing chemical mechanical polishing (CMP) and a novel plasma smoothening process. The CMP leads to a dramatic improvement, bringing the SiC surface roughness down to sub-nanometer level, though removing about 200 nm of the SiC layer. On the other hand, our proposed HCl plasma process appears very effective in smoothening selectively the sharpest surface topography, leading up to 30% improvement in SiC roughness with only about 50 nm thickness loss. We propose a simple physical model explaining the action of the plasma smoothening. © 2014 AIP Publishing LLC.
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