Barrier metal

Barrier metal

A barrier metal is a material used in integrated circuits to chemically isolate semiconductors from soft metal interconnects, while maintaining an electrical connection between them. For instance, a layer of barrier metal must surround every copper interconnection in modern copper-based chips, to prevent diffusion of copper into surrounding materials.

As the name implies, a barrier metal must have high electrical conductivity in order to maintain a good electronic contact, while maintaining a low enough copper diffusivity to sufficiently chemically isolate these copper conductor films from underlying device silicon. The thickness of the barrier films is also quite important; with too thin a barrier layer, the inner copper may contact and poison the very devices that they supply with energy and information; with barrier layers too thick, these wrapped stacks of two barrier metal films and an inner copper conductor can have a greater total resistance than the traditional aluminum interconnections would have, eliminating any benefit derived from the new metallization technology.

Some materials that have been used as barrier metals include cobalt, ruthenium, tantalum, tantalum nitride, indium oxide, and titanium nitride (the last three being conductive ceramics, but "metals" in this context).

See also diffusion barrier.

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