Study, Modelling and Implementation of the Level Set Method Used in Micromachining Processes

Carles Montoliu Alvaro
Universitat Politecnica de Valencia, Departamento de Ingenieria Electronica – Departament d’Enginyeria Electronica
Universitat Politecnica de Valencia, 2015


   title={Study, Modelling and Implementation of the Level Set Method Used in Micromachining Processes},

   author={Montoliu {‘A}lvaro, Carles},



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The main topic of the present thesis is the improvement of fabrication processes simulation by means of the Level Set (LS) method. The LS is a mathematical approach used for evolving fronts according to a motion defined by certain laws. The main advantage of this method is that the front is embedded inside a higher dimensional function such that updating this function instead of directly the front itself enables a trivial handling of complex situations like the splitting or coalescing of multiple fronts. In particular, this document is focused on wet and dry etching processes, which are widely used in the micromachining process of Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS). A MEMS is a system formed by mechanical elements, sensors, actuators, and electronics. These devices have gained a lot of popularity in last decades and are employed in several industry fields such as automotive security, motion sensors, and smartphones. Wet etching process consists in removing selectively substrate material (e.g. silicon or quartz) with a liquid solution in order to form a certain structure. This is a complex process since the result of a particular experiment depends on many factors, such as crystallographic structure of the material, etchant solution or its temperature. Similarly, dry etching processes are used for removing substrate material, however, gaseous substances are employed in the etching stage. In both cases, the usage of a simulator capable of predicting accurately the result of a certain experiment would imply a significant reduction of design time and costs. There exist a few LS-based wet etching simulators but they have many limitations and they have never been validated with real experiments. On the other hand, atomistic models are currently considered the most advanced simulators. Nevertheless, atomistic simulators present some drawbacks like the requirement of a prior calibration process in order to use the experimental data. Additionally, a lot of effort must be invested to create an atomistic model for simulating the etching process of substrate materials with different atomistic structures. Furthermore, the final result is always formed by unconnected atoms, which makes difficult a proper visualization and understanding of complex structures, thus, usually an additional visualization technique must be employed. For its part, dry etching simulators usually employ an explicit representation technique to evolve the surface being etched according to etching models. This strategy can produce unrealistic results, specially in complex situations like the interaction of multiple surfaces. Despite some models that use implicit representation have been published, they have never been directly compared with real experiments and computational performance of the implementations have not been properly analysed. The commented limitations are addressed in the various chapters of the present thesis, producing the following contributions: – An efficient LS implementation in order to improve the visual representation of atomistic wet etching simulators. This implementation produces continuous surfaces from atomistic results. – Definition of a new LS-based model which can directly use experimental data of many etchant solutions (such as KOH, TMAH, NH4HF2, and IPA and Triton additives) to simulate wet etching processes of various substrate materials (e.g. silicon and quartz). – Validation of the developed wet etching simulator by comparing it to experimental and atomistic simulator results. – Implementation of a LS-based tool which evolves the surface being etched according to dry etching models in order to enable the simulation of complex processes. This implementation is also validated experimentally. – Acceleration of the developed wet and dry etching simulators by using Graphics Processing Units (GPUs).
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