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United States Patent Application 20180006111
Kind Code A1
Xie; Ruilong ;   et al. January 4, 2018

METHODS OF FORMING A PROTECTION LAYER ON AN ISOLATION REGION OF IC PRODUCTS COMPRISING FINFET DEVICES

Abstract

One illustrative method disclosed herein includes, among other things, forming a plurality of trenches in a semiconductor substrate so as to define a plurality of fins, forming a recessed layer of insulating material comprising a first insulating material in the trenches, wherein a portion of each of the plurality of fins is exposed above an upper surface of the recessed layer of insulating material, and masking a first portion of a first fin and performing at least one first etching process to remove at least a portion of an unmasked second fin. In this example, the method further includes forming a device isolation region for the FinFET device that comprises a second insulating material and forming an isolation protection layer above the device isolation region.


Inventors: Xie; Ruilong; (Niskayuna, NY) ; Prindle; Christopher M.; (Poughkeepsie, NY) ; Sung; Min Gyu; (Latham, NY) ; Lee; Tek Po Rinus; (Malta, NY)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

GLOBALFOUNDRIES Inc.

Grand Cayman

KY
Family ID: 1000002019107
Appl. No.: 15/197944
Filed: June 30, 2016


Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: H01L 29/0649 20130101; H01L 29/785 20130101; H01L 21/76224 20130101; H01L 21/31111 20130101; H01L 21/31144 20130101; H01L 29/66795 20130101
International Class: H01L 29/06 20060101 H01L029/06; H01L 21/762 20060101 H01L021/762; H01L 21/311 20060101 H01L021/311; H01L 29/78 20060101 H01L029/78; H01L 29/66 20060101 H01L029/66

Claims



1. A method of forming a FinFET device, comprising: forming a plurality of fin-formation trenches in a semiconductor substrate so as to define a plurality of fins; forming a recessed layer of insulating material comprising a first insulating material in said fin-formation trenches, wherein a portion of each of said plurality of fins is exposed above an upper surface of said recessed layer of insulating material; after forming said recessed layer of insulating material, masking a first portion of a first fin of said plurality of fins and performing at least one first etching process to remove at least a portion of an unmasked second fin of said plurality of fins; after performing said at least one first etching process, forming a device isolation region for said FinFET device that comprises a second insulating material; and forming an isolation protection layer above said device isolation region, wherein said isolation protection layer comprises a different material than said second insulating material of said device isolation region.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein said first and second insulating materials comprise silicon dioxide and said isolation protection layer comprises one of silicon nitride, silicon oxynitride or SiBCN.

3. The method of claim 1, wherein forming said isolation protection layer above said device isolation region comprises performing a directional deposition process so as to form said isolation protection layer above said device isolation region.

4. The method of claim 1, wherein forming said isolation protection layer above said device isolation region comprises performing a conformal deposition process so as to form a conformal isolation protection layer above said device isolation region; masking portions of said conformal isolation protection layer positioned above said device isolation region while exposing other portions of said conformal isolation protection layer; and removing said exposed portions of said conformal isolation protection layer.

5. The method of claim 1, wherein masking said first portion of said first fin comprises: forming a layer of sacrificial material above said recessed layer of insulating material in said fin-formation trenches and adjacent said first and second fins; and removing a first portion of said layer of sacrificial material positioned adjacent said second fin while leaving a second portion of said layer of sacrificial material positioned adjacent said first fin in place wherein said layer of sacrificial material comprises said second portion.

6. The method of claim 1, wherein masking said first portion of said first fin comprises forming a patterned fin masking layer that is at least partially positioned within said fin-formation trenches, wherein said patterned fin masking layer comprises at least one layer of material.

7. The method of claim 1, wherein forming said device isolation region for said FinFET device comprises: removing a portion of said recessed layer of insulating material so as to expose a substantially horizontal surface of said substrate and define an isolation region opening; filling said isolation region opening with said second insulating material; and performing a recess etching process of said second insulating material.

8. The method of claim 1, wherein said at least one first etching process is performed so as to remove an entire vertical height of said unmasked portion of said second fin.

9. The method of claim 1, wherein performing said at least one first etching process comprises performing a single etching process.

10. A method of forming a FinFET device, comprising: forming a plurality of fin-formation trenches in a semiconductor substrate so as to define a plurality of fins; forming a recessed layer of insulating material comprising a first insulating material in said fin-formation trenches, wherein a portion of each of said plurality of fins is exposed above an upper surface of said recessed layer of insulating material; after forming said recessed layer of insulating material, forming a patterned fin masking layer above said substrate that covers a first portion of a first fin of said plurality of fins, exposes a second portion of said first fin and exposes at least a portion of a second fin of said plurality of fins; with said patterned fin masking layer in position above said substrate, performing at least one first etching process to remove at least a portion of a vertical height of said exposed portions of said first and second fins; after performing said at least one first etching process, forming a device isolation region for said FinFET device that comprises a second insulating material; and forming an isolation protection layer above said device isolation region, wherein said isolation protection layer comprises a different material than said second insulating material of said device isolation region.

11. The method of claim 10, wherein said first and second insulating materials comprise different insulating materials and wherein said isolation protection layer comprises a material that is different from both said first and second insulating materials.

12. The method of claim 10, wherein forming said isolation protection layer above said device isolation region comprises: performing a directional deposition process so as to form a first portion of said isolation protection layer above said patterned fin masking layer and a second portion of said isolation protection layer above said device isolation region; masking said second portion of said isolation protection layer; and removing said first portion of said isolation protection layer.

13. The method of claim 10, wherein forming said isolation protection layer above said device isolation region comprises performing a conformal deposition process so as to form a conformal isolation protection layer above said patterned fin masking layer and above said device isolation region; masking portions of said conformal isolation protection layer positioned above said device isolation region while exposing other portions of said conformal isolation protection layer; and removing said exposed portions of said conformal isolation protection layer.

14. The method of claim 10, wherein forming said patterned fin masking layer comprises: forming a layer of sacrificial material above said recessed layer of insulating material in said fin-formation trenches and adjacent said first and second fins; and removing a first portion of said layer of sacrificial material positioned adjacent said second fin while leaving a second portion of said layer of sacrificial material positioned adjacent said first fin in place, wherein said layer of sacrificial material comprises said second portion.

15. The method of claim 10, wherein forming said patterned fin masking layer comprises: forming a first layer of sacrificial material above said recessed layer of insulating material in said fin-formation trenches and adjacent said first and second fins; forming a second layer of sacrificial material on said first layer of sacrificial material; removing a first portion of said second layer of sacrificial material from above said second fin while leaving a second portion of said second layer of sacrificial material positioned above said first fin; and removing a first portion of said first layer of sacrificial material positioned adjacent said second fin while leaving a second portion of said first layer of sacrificial material positioned adjacent said first fin in place, wherein said patterned fin masking layer comprises said second portion of said first layer of sacrificial material and said second portion of said second layer of sacrificial material.

16. The method of claim 15, wherein said first and second layers of sacrificial material comprise different materials.

17. The method of claim 10 wherein forming said device isolation region for said FinFET device comprises: after performing said at least one first etching process, and with said patterned fin masking layer in position above said substrate, removing a portion of said recessed layer of insulating material so as to expose a substantially horizontal surface of said substrate and define an isolation region opening; filling said isolation region opening with said second insulating material; and performing a recess etching process of said second insulating material.

18. An integrated circuit product, comprising: a FinFET device comprising at least one fin, a gate structure and a sidewall spacer; a device isolation region comprising a first insulating material positioned around a perimeter of said FinFET device; an isolation protection layer positioned above said device isolation region, said isolation protection layer comprising a material that is different than said first insulating material, wherein a first portion of said isolation protection layer is positioned under a portion of said gate structure and a portion of said sidewall spacer and a second portion of said isolation protection layer is not positioned under said gate structure and not positioned under said sidewall spacer, said first portion of said isolation protection layer having a thickness that is greater than a thickness of said second portion.

19. The product of claim 18, wherein said first insulating material comprises silicon dioxide and said isolation protection layer comprises one of silicon nitride or silicon oxynitride.

20. The product of claim 18, further comprising a recessed layer of a second insulating material positioned under said gate structure and adjacent said fin.

21. The product of claim 20, wherein said first and second insulating materials comprise silicon dioxide.

22. The product of claim 20, wherein said first and second insulating materials comprise different insulating materials.

23. The product of claim 18, wherein, when viewed in a cross-section taken through said gate structure and said isolation protection layer in a direction corresponding to a gate width direction of said device, said isolation protection layer has a stepped cross-sectional profile.

24. The product of claim 18, wherein, when viewed in a cross-section taken through said gate structure and said isolation protection layer in a direction corresponding to a gate length direction of said device, the isolation protection layer has a stepped cross-sectional profile.
Description



BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

[0001] Generally, the present disclosure relates to the manufacture of semiconductor devices, and, more specifically, to various novel methods of forming a protection layer on an isolation region of integrated circuit (IC) products comprising FinFET devices.

2. Description of the Related Art

[0002] In modern integrated circuits, such as microprocessors, storage devices and the like, a very large number of circuit elements, especially transistors, are provided on a restricted chip area. Transistors come in a variety of shapes and forms, e.g., planar transistors, FinFET transistors, nanowire devices, etc. The transistors are typically either NMOS (NFET) or PMOS (PFET) type devices wherein the "N" and "P" designation is based upon the type of dopants used to create the source/drain regions of the devices. So-called CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) technology or products refers to integrated circuit products that are manufactured using both NMOS and PMOS transistor devices. Irrespective of the physical configuration of the transistor device, each device comprises drain and source regions and a gate electrode structure positioned above and between the source/drain regions. Upon application of an appropriate control voltage to the gate electrode, a conductive channel region forms between the drain region and the source region.

[0003] A conventional FET is a planar device wherein the entire channel region of the device is formed parallel and slightly below the planar upper surface of the semiconducting substrate. In contrast to a planar FET, there are so-called 3D devices, such as an illustrative FinFET device, which is a three-dimensional structure. FIG. 1A is a perspective view of an illustrative prior art FinFET semiconductor device 10 that is formed above a semiconductor substrate 12 wherein the fins 14 of the device 10 are made of the material of the substrate 12, e.g., silicon. The device 10 includes a plurality of fin-formation trenches 13, three illustrative fins 14, a gate structure 16, a sidewall spacer 18 and a gate cap layer 20. An insulating material 17 provides electrical isolation between the fins 14. The gate structure 16 is typically comprised of a layer of insulating material (not separately shown), e.g., a layer of high-k insulating material, and one or more conductive material layers that serve as the gate electrode for the device 10. The fins 14 have a three dimensional configuration: a height H, a width W and an axial length L. The axial length L corresponds to the gate length (GL) of the device, i.e., the direction of current travel in the device 10 when it is operational. The gate width (GW) of the device 10 is orthogonal to the gate length (GL) direction. The portions of the fins 14 covered by the gate structure 16 are the channel region of the FinFET device 10. The portions of the fins 14 that are positioned outside of the spacers 18 will become part of the source/drain regions of the device 10. Typically, additional epi semiconductor material (not shown) is formed on the portions of the fins 14 in the source/drain regions. A trench may or may not be formed in the fins 14 prior to the formation of the epi material. The epi material may be formed so as to result in merged or un-merged epi material in the source/drain regions.

[0004] Both FET and FinFET semiconductor devices have an isolation structure, e.g., a shallow trench isolation structure that is formed in the semiconducting substrate around the device so as to electrically isolate the semiconductor device from adjacent devices. Traditionally, isolation structures were always the first structure that was formed when manufacturing semiconductor devices. The isolation structures were formed by etching the trenches for the isolation structures and thereafter filling the trenches with the desired insulating material, e.g., silicon dioxide. After the isolation structures were formed, various process operations were performed to manufacture the semiconductor device. In the case of a FinFET device, this involved masking the previously formed isolation structure and etching the trenches in the substrate that defined the fins. As FinFET devices have been scaled to meet ever-increasing performance and size requirements, the width of the fins 14 has become very small, e.g., 6-12 nm, and the fin pitch has also been significantly decreased, e.g., the fin pitch may be on the order of about 30-60 nm.

[0005] However, as the dimensions of the fins became smaller, problems arose with manufacturing the isolation structures before the fins were formed. As one example, trying to accurately define very small fins in regions that were separated by relatively large isolation regions was difficult due to the non-uniform spacing between various structures on the substrate. One manufacturing technique that is employed in manufacturing FinFET devices is to initially etch the fin-formation trenches 13 in the substrate 12 to define multiple "fins" that extend across the entire substrate 12 (or area of the substrate where FinFET devices will be formed). Using this type of manufacturing approach, better accuracy and repeatability may be achieved in forming the fins 14 to very small dimensions due to the more uniform environment in which the etching process that forms the fin-formation trenches 13 is performed. After the fin-formation trenches 13 are formed, the isolation material 17 is formed between the fins 14 such that it substantially fills the fin-formation trenches 13. At that point, some portion of some of the fins 14 must be removed or cut to create room for or define the spaces where a device isolation region, e.g., an STI region, will ultimately be formed. This fin cutting process is typically performed by forming two different "fin cut" masking layers and performing a single etching process. After the fins are cut, additional insulation isolation material 17 is formed between the remaining fins 14 and in the spaces that were formerly occupied by the removed fins. Next, a timed recess etching process was then performed on the insulating material 17 so as to "reveal" the desired final fin height of the remaining fins. As a result of these process operations, so-called local isolation regions are formed between the fins 14, and a device isolation region, e.g., an STI region, is formed around the FinFET device so as to electrically isolate the device from adjacent FinFET devices. Importantly, in this prior art process flow, the fin cutting process was performed prior to performing the fin reveal process, i.e., prior to performing the recess etching process on the insulating material 17.

[0006] FIG. 1B is a cross-sectional view taken through a fin 14 of a prior art integrated circuit product in a gate length direction of the FinFET device. Also depicted is an isolation region 28 that was filled with the insulation material 17, which is typically silicon dioxide. Depending upon the particular application, the depth of the isolation region may be the same as or deeper than the depth of the fin-formation trenches 13. Also depicted in FIG. 1B is a plurality of epi semiconductor material regions 30 that are formed in the fin 14 between adjacent gates, i.e., in the source/drain regions of the devices. In this example, after the gate was formed, trenches were etched into the fin 14 and the epi semiconductor material 30 was then deposited into the trenches in the fin 14.

[0007] Several acid-based etching or cleaning processes are performed on the product over the course of forming the various structures that make up the FinFET devices. For example, a plurality of wet HF based cleaning processes may be performed at various times to remove an undesirable material, such as native oxide layers, prior to or after performing a process operation. By way of example, such acid-based cleaning processes are typically performed prior to formation of the epi semiconductor materials 30. Unfortunately, the isolation structure 28, which is typically comprised of silicon dioxide, is also subject to attack during these cleaning processes. Additionally, even if an etching or cleaning process is performed that is not purposefully intended to remove silicon dioxide, e.g., a spacer etch process when the spacer material is silicon nitride, the silicon dioxide material 17 in the isolation structure 28 is still subject to some degree of attack. As a result, as shown in FIG. 1B, the net result of performing all of these acid-based cleaning and etching processes is that relatively large divots or holes 32 may be formed in the isolation structure 28. In some cases, the divots 32 may become large enough such that the foundational support for the gates is lost to at least some degree. As indicated, the gates are intended to have a generally vertical orientation 31. But, due to the formation of the divots 32, the gates may actually tilt or "flip-over," as reflected by the line 33, from their desired vertical orientation 31. One of the gates in FIG. 1B is depicted in dashed lines so as to simplistically represent such a "tilted gate." Such tilting of the gates, if sufficient, may lead to significant degradation of the performance of the IC product.

[0008] The present disclosure is directed to various novel methods of forming a protection layer on an isolation region of integrated circuit (IC) products comprising FinFET devices and resulting structures that may solve or reduce one or more of the problems identified above.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0009] The following presents a simplified summary of the invention in order to provide a basic understanding of some aspects of the invention. This summary is not an exhaustive overview of the invention. It is not intended to identify key or critical elements of the invention or to delineate the scope of the invention. Its sole purpose is to present some concepts in a simplified form as a prelude to the more detailed description that is discussed later.

[0010] Generally, the present disclosure is directed to various novel methods of forming a protection layer on an isolation region of integrated circuit (IC) products comprising FinFET devices and the resulting structures. One illustrative method disclosed herein includes, among other things, forming a plurality of trenches in a semiconductor substrate so as to define a plurality of fins, forming a recessed layer of insulating material comprising a first insulating material in the trenches, wherein a portion of each of the plurality of fins is exposed above an upper surface of the recessed layer of insulating material, and masking a first portion of a first fin and performing at least one first etching process to remove at least a portion of an unmasked second fin. In this example, the method further includes forming a device isolation region for the FinFET device that comprises a second insulating material and forming an isolation protection layer above the device isolation region.

[0011] One illustrative embodiment of an IC product disclosed herein comprises a FinFET device comprising at least one fin, a gate structure and a sidewall spacer and a device isolation region comprising a first insulating material positioned around a perimeter of the FinFET device. The product also comprises an isolation protection layer positioned above the device isolation region, wherein the isolation protection layer comprises a material that is different than the first insulating material, and wherein a first portion of the isolation protection layer is positioned under a portion of the gate structure and a portion of the sidewall spacer and a second portion of the isolation protection layer is not positioned under the gate structure and not positioned under the sidewall spacer, the first portion of the isolation protection layer having a thickness that is greater than a thickness of the second portion.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0012] The disclosure may be understood by reference to the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which like reference numerals identify like elements, and in which:

[0013] FIG. 1A is a perspective view of an illustrative prior art FinFET device;

[0014] FIG. 1B is a cross-sectional view taken through a fin of a prior art integrated circuit product comprised of a plurality of gates;

[0015] FIGS. 2A-2R depict various illustrative novel methods disclosed herein for forming a protection layer on an isolation region of integrated circuit (IC) products comprising FinFET devices;

[0016] FIGS. 3A-3I depict other illustrative novel methods disclosed herein for forming a protection layer on an isolation region of integrated circuit (IC) products comprising FinFET devices;

[0017] FIGS. 4A-4I depict yet other illustrative novel methods disclosed herein for forming a protection layer on an isolation region of integrated circuit (IC) products comprising FinFET devices; and

[0018] FIG. 5 depicts an illustrative integrated circuit product that includes FinFET devices and an isolation region with one illustrative embodiment of a novel isolation protection layer disclosed herein positioned above the isolation region.

[0019] While the subject matter disclosed herein is susceptible to various modifications and alternative forms, specific embodiments thereof have been shown by way of example in the drawings and are herein described in detail. It should be understood, however, that the description herein of specific embodiments is not intended to limit the invention to the particular forms disclosed, but on the contrary, the intention is to cover all modifications, equivalents, and alternatives falling within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0020] Various illustrative embodiments of the invention are described below. In the interest of clarity, not all features of an actual implementation are described in this specification. It will of course be appreciated that in the development of any such actual embodiment, numerous implementation-specific decisions must be made to achieve the developers' specific goals, such as compliance with system-related and business-related constraints, which will vary from one implementation to another. Moreover, it will be appreciated that such a development effort might be complex and time-consuming, but would nevertheless be a routine undertaking for those of ordinary skill in the art having the benefit of this disclosure.

[0021] The present subject matter will now be described with reference to the attached figures. Various structures, systems and devices are schematically depicted in the drawings for purposes of explanation only and so as to not obscure the present disclosure with details that are well known to those skilled in the art. Nevertheless, the attached drawings are included to describe and explain illustrative examples of the present disclosure. The words and phrases used herein should be understood and interpreted to have a meaning consistent with the understanding of those words and phrases by those skilled in the relevant art. No special definition of a term or phrase, i.e., a definition that is different from the ordinary and customary meaning as understood by those skilled in the art, is intended to be implied by consistent usage of the term or phrase herein. To the extent that a term or phrase is intended to have a special meaning, i.e., a meaning other than that understood by skilled artisans, such a special definition will be expressly set forth in the specification in a definitional manner that directly and unequivocally provides the special definition for the term or phrase. As will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art upon a complete reading of the present application, the methods disclosed herein may be employed in manufacturing a variety of different devices, including, but not limited to, logic devices, memory devices, etc., and the devices may be may be either NMOS or PMOS devices.

[0022] As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art after a complete reading of the present application, various doped regions, e.g., source/drain regions, halo implant regions, well regions and the like, are not depicted in the attached drawings. Of course, the inventions disclosed herein should not be considered to be limited to the illustrative examples depicted and described herein. The various components and structures of the integrated circuit devices 100 disclosed herein may be formed using a variety of different materials and by performing a variety of known techniques, e.g., a chemical vapor deposition (CVD) process, an atomic layer deposition (ALD) process, a thermal growth process, spin-coating techniques, etc. The thicknesses of these various layers of material may also vary depending upon the particular application. With reference to the attached figures, various illustrative embodiments of the methods and devices disclosed herein will now be described in more detail.

[0023] FIGS. 2A-2R depict various illustrative novel methods disclosed herein for forming a protection layer on an isolation region of an integrated circuit (IC) product 100 comprising FinFET devices. In the examples depicted herein, the integrated circuit product 100 will be formed in and above a semiconductor substrate 102. The substrate 102 may have a variety of configurations, such as a semiconductor-on-insulator (SOI) configuration that includes a bulk semiconductor layer, a buried insulation layer and an active semiconductor layer. Alternatively, the substrate may have a simple bulk configuration. The substrate 102 may be made of silicon or it may be made of materials other than silicon, e.g., silicon-germanium, a III-V compound semiconductor material, etc. Thus, the terms "substrate" or "semiconductor substrate" should be understood to cover all semiconducting materials and all forms of such materials.

[0024] FIG. 2A depicts the product 100 at a point in fabrication wherein several process operations have been performed. First, a patterned fin-formation etch mask 104, e.g., a combination of a silicon dioxide layer (e.g., a pad oxide--not separately shown) and a silicon nitride layer (e.g., a pad nitride--not separately shown) was formed above the substrate 102. In some cases, the pad oxide layer may be omitted if desired.

[0025] FIG. 2B depicts the product 100 after several process operations were performed. First, one or more etching processes were performed through the patterned fin-formation etch mask 104 so as to define a plurality of fin-formation trenches 105 in the substrate 102. This results in the formation of a plurality of fins 106 (A-G). Next, a layer of insulating material 108 was deposited so as to over-fill the trenches 105 with the insulating material 108. Then, a planarization process, such as a chemical mechanical planarization (CMP) process, was performed on the layer of insulating material 108 that stopped on the upper surface of the patterned fin-formation hard mask 104. The illustrative FinFET device disclosed herein will be depicted as being comprised of three illustrative active fins 106A, 106B and 106C. However, as will be recognized by those skilled in the art after a complete reading of the present application, the methods and devices disclosed herein may be employed when manufacturing FinFET devices having any number of fins.

[0026] With continuing reference to FIG. 2B, the overall size, shape and configuration of the fin-formation trenches 105 and the fins 106 may vary depending on the particular application. The depth and width of the trenches 105 may vary depending upon the particular application. In one illustrative embodiment, based on current-day technology, the overall depth (relative to the upper surface of the substrate 102) of the fin-formation trenches 105 may range from approximately 60-200 nm. In the illustrative examples depicted in the attached figures, the trenches 105 and the fins 106 will be simplistically depicted as having generally rectangular portions and sections. In an actual real-world device, the sidewalls of the fins 106 may be somewhat outwardly tapered (i.e., the fins may be wider at the bottom of the fin than they are at the top of the fin), although that configuration is not depicted in the attached drawings. Thus, the size and configuration of the trenches 105 and the fins 106, and the manner in which they are made, should not be considered a limitation of the present invention. For ease of disclosure, only the substantially rectangular-shaped trenches 105 and fins 106 having a substantially rectangular-shaped cross-sectional configuration will be depicted in the drawings.

[0027] FIG. 2C depicts the product 100 after a timed, recess etching process--a "fin reveal" etching process--was performed on the layer of insulating material 108 so as to recess the insulating material 108 to a desired height level within the trenches 105. As depicted, the layer of insulating material 108 has a recessed upper surface 108R that exposes the desired final fin height of the fins 106 above the insulating material 108.

[0028] FIG. 2D depicts the product 100 after several process operations were performed. First, a conformal deposition process, such as an ALD process, was performed to form a relatively thin (e.g., 2-4 nm) conformal layer of silicon dioxide (not shown) on the recessed upper surface 108R of the layer of insulating material 108, on the sidewalls of the fins 106 and around the features of the patterned fin-formation hard mask 104. Then, a sacrificial layer of material 110 was formed so as to over-fill the remaining portions of the trenches 105 such that its upper surface 110S is positioned at a level that is above the level of the upper surface 104S of the patterned fin-formation hard mask 104. A CMP process may be performed on the layer of material 110 if desired. In one illustrative embodiment, the layer of material 110 should be made of a material that exhibits good etch selectivity to silicon dioxide, a material such as silicon nitride, silicon oxynitride, SiBCN, etc.

[0029] As shown in FIGS. 2E-2G, the next major process operation involves removing portions of the fins 106 so as to define an isolation region opening 112 where a device isolation structure will be formed around the perimeter of the FinFET device. First, several etching processes were performed through a patterned masking layer (not shown), e.g., a patterned layer of photoresist, that was formed above the sacrificial layer of material 110. The patterned masking layer covers the area above the portions of the fins 106A-C that will become the active fins of the FinFET device. The patterned masking layer also has an opening that is located above an area where portions of the laterally adjacent fins 106D-G and portions of the fins 106A-C will be removed to define the isolation region opening 112 for the device isolation region that will be formed around the perimeter of the FinFET device. For example, in one illustrative process flow, a first etching process was performed through the patterned masking layer to remove the portion of the sacrificial layer of material 110, the portion of the silicon dioxide liner layer (not shown) and the portion of the patterned fin formation masking layer 104 positioned under the opening in the patterned masking layer. The first etching process stops on the insulation material 108. This first etching process results in the formation of a patterned fin masking layer 111. In this illustrative embodiment, the patterned fin masking layer 111 comprises portions of the sacrificial layer of material 110. The patterned fin masking layer 111 is positioned above or covers the portions of the fins 106A-C that will become part of the FinFET device and contains an opening that corresponds to the isolation region opening 112 where the device isolation region will be formed, i.e., the pattern in the patterned masking layer is transferred to the patterned fin masking layer 111.

[0030] With continuing reference to FIGS. 2E-2G, at this point, if desired, the patterned masking layer may be removed. Then, a second etching process was performed to remove the exposed portions of the fins 106 within the isolation region opening 112. In the depicted example, the entire vertical height of the exposed portions of the fins 106 was removed.

[0031] Next, a third etching process was performed to remove the exposed portions of the insulation material 108 within the isolation region opening 112. The result of all of these process operations is that the isolation region opening 112 for a device isolation region is formed around the perimeter of the FinFET device and that portions of the upper surface 102S of the substrate 102 is exposed. FIG. 2F is a simplistic plan view of the product 100 after the fins 106 have been cut and removed. FIG. 2F does not depict any of the various layers of material present above the substrate 102, only the fins 106 and the substrate 102 are depicted. FIG. 2G is a simplistic plan view of the product 100 wherein the patterned fin masking layer 111 (i.e., the remaining portions of the sacrificial layer of material 110) is depicted and wherein the remaining fins 106 are depicted in dashed lines. As depicted a greater axial length of the laterally adjacent fins 106D-G were removed as compared to the axial length of the fins 106A-C. At the completions of this fin removal process, which may involve performing two separate fin cut etching processes or a single fin cut etching process, the illustrative active fins 106A, 106B and 106C for the FinFET device will have been cut to the desired final axial length.

[0032] FIG. 2H depicts the product 100 after several process operations were performed. First, a layer of insulating material 114 was deposited so as to over-fill the isolation region opening 112 for the device isolation region. Then, a planarization process, such as a CMP process, was performed on the layer of insulating material 114 that stopped on the upper surface of the patterned fin masking layer 111. In one illustrative embodiment, the layer of insulating material 114 may be comprised of a material that is the same as that of the layer of insulating material 108, e.g., they both may be silicon dioxide, but, in some applications, the materials of the layers 108, 114 may be different.

[0033] FIG. 21 depicts the product 100 after a timed, recess etching process was performed on the layer of insulating material 114 so as to recess the insulating material 114 to a desired height level within the isolation region opening 112. As depicted, the layer of insulating material 114 has a recessed upper surface 114R. The amount of recessing of the layer of insulation material 114 may vary depending upon the particular application. For example, the layer of insulting material 114 may be recessed such that its recessed upper surface 114R is positioned at the level indicated by the dashed line 114X.

[0034] FIG. 2J depicts the product 100 after a conformal deposition process, such as an ALD process, was performed to form a relatively thin (e.g., 2-4 nm) conformal layer of silicon dioxide 116 on the recessed upper surface 114R of the layer of insulating material 114 and on the upper surface and sides of the patterned fin masking layer 111.

[0035] FIG. 2K depicts the product 100 after several process operations were performed. First, a directional deposition process, such as a gas cluster ion beam (GCIB) process, was performed to form a layer of isolation protection material 118 on the substantially horizontally oriented surfaces, i.e., to form a first portion of the isolation protection material 118 above the patterned fin masking layer 111 and to form a second portion of the isolation protection material 118 in the isolation region opening 112 above the layer of silicon dioxide 116. In general, during such a directional deposition process, little, if any, of the deposited material forms on the substantially vertically oriented surfaces. The thickness of the layer of isolation protection material 118 may vary depending upon the particular application, e.g., 10-30 nm. In one illustrative embodiment, the layer of isolation protection material 118 should be made of a material that exhibits good etch selectivity to silicon dioxide, e.g., a material such as silicon nitride, silicon oxynitride, SiBCN, etc. In one illustrative embodiment, the layer of isolation protection material 118 may be comprised of a material that is the same as that of the sacrificial layer of material 110, e.g., they both may be made of silicon nitride, but, in some applications, the materials of the layers 118, 110 may be different. After forming the layer of isolation protection material 118, another conformal deposition process, such as an ALD process, was performed to form a relatively thin (e.g., 2-4 nm) conformal layer of material 120. The conformal layer of material 120 is depicted with a dashed line so as to distinguish it from the conformal layer of silicon dioxide 116. The conformal layer of material 120 should be made of a material that may be selectively etched relative to the layer of isolation protection material 118 and the conformal layer of silicon dioxide 116. In one illustrative embodiment, the conformal layer of material 120 may be comprised of a material having a dielectric constant greater than about 10, e.g., hafnium oxide, etc.

[0036] FIG. 2L depicts the product 100 after several process operations were performed. First, a layer of masking material 122, such as SOH, OPL, etc., was deposited so as to substantially fill the remaining portions of the isolation region opening 112. Then, a timed, recess etching process was performed on the layer of masking material 122 such that it has a recessed upper surface 122R. The amount of recessing of the layer of masking material 122 may vary depending upon the particular application. In general, the recessed upper surface 122R should be positioned at level that is below the upper surface of the patterned fin masking layer 111.

[0037] FIG. 2M depicts the product after several process operations were performed. First, an etching process was performed to remove exposed portions of the conformal layer of material 120. The etching process exposes the portion of the layer of isolation protection material 118 positioned above the patterned fin masking layer 111 and above the fins 106.

[0038] Then, another etching process was performed to remove the exposed first portion of the layer of isolation protection material 118. Next, another etching process was performed to remove the exposed portions of the conformal layer of silicon dioxide 116.

[0039] FIG. 2N depicts the product after an etching process was performed to remove the layer of masking material 122.

[0040] FIG. 20 depicts the product 100 after several processing operations were performed. First, an etching process was performed to remove the patterned fin masking layer 111. At this point, the patterned fin-formation masking layer 104 is protected by a thin conformal layer of silicon dioxide (not shown). To the extent that this thin layer of silicon dioxide remains intact after the patterned fin masking layer 111 is removed, a brief etching process is performed to remove the conformal layer of silicon dioxide and thereby expose the patterned fin-formation masking layer 104. Next, another etching process was performed to remove the patterned fin-formation masking layer 104 and to expose the upper surface and sidewalls of the fins 106A-C.

[0041] FIG. 2P depicts the product after one or more etching processes were performed to remove the exposed portion of the conformal layer of silicon dioxide 116 and the conformal layer of material 120. As depicted, in this embodiment, the remaining portions of the layer of isolation protection material 118 constitute an isolation protection layer 125 that is positioned above an isolation region 127. The isolation region 127 comprises at least the insulating material 114 positioned in the isolation region opening 112.

[0042] At the point of processing depicted in FIG. 2P, the FinFET device may be completed using traditional fabrication techniques. For example, FIG. 2Q depicts the product after an illustrative and representative gate structure 130, a gate cap layer 132 and a sidewall spacer 134 were formed. Of course, the materials of construction for the gate structure 130 of an NMOS device may be (and likely will be) different from the gate structure of a PMOS device. In one illustrative embodiment, the schematically depicted gate structure 130 includes an illustrative gate insulation layer 130A and an illustrative gate electrode 130B. The gate insulation layer 130A may be comprised of a variety of different materials, such as, for example, silicon dioxide, a so-called high-k (k greater than 10) insulation material (where k is the relative dielectric constant), etc. Similarly, the gate electrode 130B may also be of a material such as polysilicon or amorphous silicon, or it may be comprised of one or more metal layers that act as the gate electrode 130B. As will be recognized by those skilled in the art after a complete reading of the present application, the gate structure 130 of the FinFET device depicted in the drawings, i.e., the gate insulation layer 130A and the gate electrode 130B are intended to be representative in nature. That is, the gate structure 130 may be comprised of a variety of different materials and it may have a variety of configurations. The gate structure 130 may be manufactured using either the so-called "gate-first" or "replacement gate" techniques. After the gate structure 130 is formed, other processing activities may also be performed, e.g., the formation of doped halo implant regions (not shown), doped source/drain regions (not shown), the formation of epi semiconductor material (not shown) in the source/drain regions, etc. As depicted in FIG. 2Q, in one illustrative embodiment where the sidewall spacer 134 and the isolation protection layer 125 are comprised of the same (or similar) material, such as silicon nitride, a notch or recess 125X is formed in the isolation protection layer 125 when the anisotropic etching process is performed to form the spacer 134, such that the isolation protection layer 125 has a stepped configuration due to the presence of the notch 125X. That is, in the cross-sectional view shown in FIG. 2Q (through the gate in the gate width direction of the device), the portions of the isolation protection layer 125 positioned under the sidewall spacer 134 and the gate structure 130 are thicker than the portions of the isolation protection layer 125 not covered the spacer 134 and the gate structure 130. As discussed more fully below, the isolation protection layer 125 also has this same stepped configuration when viewed in a cross-section taken through a fin and the gate in a gate length direction of the device. Importantly, in the illustrative process flow depicted herein, the "fin-reveal" process, i.e., the recessing of the layer of insulating material 108, was performed prior to removing the fins in the areas occupied by the device isolation region 127.

[0043] FIG. 2R is a simplistic plan view of the product 100 after the gate has been formed. As depicted, the isolation protection layer 125 is positioned above the insulating material 114 that constitutes the device isolation structure 127. In this particular example, the isolation protection layer 125 may be comprised of silicon nitride so as to protect the underlying silicon dioxide insulation material 114 in the device isolation structure 127 as subsequent processing proceeds on the device, thereby eliminating or at least reducing the formation of the divots in the isolation material as discussed in the background section of this application.

[0044] FIGS. 3A-3I depict other illustrative novel methods disclosed herein for forming a protection layer on an isolation region of integrated circuit (IC) products comprising FinFET devices. FIG. 3A depicts the device at a point in processing that corresponds to that shown in FIG. 2C, i.e., after the above-described timed, recess etching process was performed on the layer of insulating material 108 so as to recess the insulating material 108 to a desired height level within the trenches 105.

[0045] FIG. 3B depicts the product 100 after several process operations were performed. First, an etching process was performed to remove the patterned fin formation hard mask 104. Then, a conformal deposition process, such as an ALD process, was performed to form a relatively thin (e.g., 2-4 nm) conformal layer of silicon dioxide 138. Next, a sacrificial layer of material 140, such amorphous silicon or polysilicon, and a sacrificial layer of material 142, e.g., silicon nitride, was blanket-deposited across the substrate 102. The materials 140, 142 may be formed to any desired thickness.

[0046] FIG. 3C depicts the product 100 after the above-described masking and etching processes were performed to remove various layers of material and portions of the fins 106 so as to define the isolation region opening 112 where the device isolation structure 127 will be formed around the FinFET device. In this example, a first etching process was performed through a patterned masking layer (not shown), e.g., a patterned layer of photoresist, to remove the exposed portions of sacrificial layer 142. The patterned masking layer may be removed at this point in the process flow if desired. Thereafter, another etching process was performed to remove the exposed portions of the sacrificial layer of material 140 that stops on the silicon dioxide liner layer 138. These etching processes result in the formation of another version of the patterned fin masking layer 111. In this illustrative embodiment, the patterned fin masking layer 111 comprises a portion of the sacrificial layer of material 142 and a portion of the sacrificial layer of material 140.

[0047] Next, another etching process was performed to remove the silicon dioxide liner layer 138 and expose the portions of the fins 106 that are to be removed. This latter etching process stops on the portions of the insulation material 108 positioned within the isolation region opening 112. Then, yet another etching process was performed to remove the exposed portions of the fins 106. In the depicted example, the entire vertical height of the exposed portions of the fins 106 was removed. Next, a final etching process was performed to remove the exposed portions of the insulation material 108. The result of all of these process operations is that the isolation region opening 112 for the device isolation region 127 is formed around the perimeter of the FinFET device and exposes portions of the upper surface 102S of the substrate 102.

[0048] FIG. 3D depicts the product 100 after the above-described layer of insulating material 114 was formed in the isolation region opening 112 and after a CMP process was performed on the layer of insulating material 114 that stopped on the upper surface of the sacrificial layer of material 142.

[0049] FIG. 3E depicts the product 100 after the above-described timed, recess etching process was performed to recess the layer of insulating material 114 to a desired height level within the isolation region opening 112.

[0050] FIG. 3F depicts the product 100 after the above-described directional deposition process, such as a gas cluster ion beam (GCIB) process, was performed to form the above-described layer of isolation protection material 118 on the substantially horizontally oriented surfaces, i.e., to form a first portion above the patterned fin masking layer 111 and to form a second portion of the isolation protection material 118 in the isolation region opening 112 above the layer of silicon dioxide 114. In this embodiment, portions of the layer of isolation protection material 118 in the isolation region opening 112 will constitute the isolation protection layer 125 that is positioned above the isolation region 127.

[0051] FIG. 3G depicts the product 100 after the above-described layer of masking material 122, such as SOH, OPL, etc., was deposited so as to substantially fill the remaining portions of the isolation region opening 112 and after the above-described timed, recess etching process was performed on the layer of masking material 122 such that it has a recessed upper surface 122R that, in one embodiment, is positioned at a level that is above the upper surface 140R of the layer of sacrificial material 140.

[0052] FIG. 3H depicts the product after several process operations were performed. First, an etching process was performed to remove exposed portions of the layer of isolation protection material 118 positioned above the patterned fin masking layer 111 that is positioned above the fins 106A-C. Then, another etching process was performed to remove the layer of sacrificial material 142 selectively relative to the layer of sacrificial material 140. Then, yet another etching process was performed to remove the layer of sacrificial material 140 relative to the conformal layer of silicon dioxide 138.

[0053] FIG. 3I depicts the product after several process operations were performed. In one embodiment, an etching process was performed to remove the layer of masking material 122 so as to expose the isolation protection layer 125. Then, another etching process was performed to remove the conformal layer of silicon dioxide 138 so as to expose the upper surface and sidewalls of the fins 106A-C. If desired, these etching processes may be performed in any desired order. At this point, the FinFET device may be completed using traditional fabrication techniques. For example, the gate structure 130, the gate cap layer 132 and sidewall spacer 134 depicted in FIG. 2Q may be formed.

[0054] FIGS. 4A-41 depict yet other illustrative novel methods disclosed herein for forming a protection layer on an isolation region of integrated circuit (IC) products comprising FinFET devices. FIG. 4A depicts the device at a point in processing that corresponds to that shown in FIG. 2C, i.e., after the above-described timed, recess etching process was performed on the layer of insulating material 108 so as to recess the insulating material 108 to a desired height level within the trenches 105.

[0055] FIG. 4B depicts the product 100 after several process operations were performed. First, a conformal deposition process, such as an ALD process, was performed to form the above-described conformal layer of silicon dioxide 138 around the fins 106 and the patterned fin-formation hard mask 104. Then, the above-described sacrificial layer of material 140 (e.g., silicon nitride) was blanket-deposited across the substrate 102. The material 140 may be formed to any desired thickness.

[0056] FIG. 4C depicts the product 100 after the above-described masking and etching processes were performed to remove portions of various layers of material and portions of the fins 106 so as to define the isolation region opening 112 where the device isolation structure 127 will be formed around the FinFET device. In this example, a first etching process was performed through a patterned masking layer (not shown), e.g., a patterned layer of photo-resist, to remove the exposed portions of sacrificial layer 140. This process operation results in the formation of the patterned fin masking layer 111. In this illustrative embodiment, the patterned fin masking layer 111 comprises a portion of the sacrificial layer of material 140. Thereafter, another etching process was performed to remove the exposed portions of the silicon dioxide liner layer 138 so as to expose the portions of the fins 106 that are to be removed. Then, yet another etching process was performed to remove the exposed portions of the fins 106. As before, in this example, the entire vertical height of the exposed portions of the fins 106 was removed. Next, a final etching process was performed to remove the exposed portions of the insulation material 108. The result of all of these process operations is that the isolation region opening 112 for the device isolation region 127 is formed around the perimeter of the FinFET device that exposes portions of the upper surface 102S of the substrate 102.

[0057] FIG. 4D depicts the product 100 after the above-described layer of insulating material 114 was formed in the isolation region opening 112 and after a CMP process was performed on the layer of insulating material 114 that stopped on the upper surface of the sacrificial layer of material 140.

[0058] FIG. 4E depicts the product 100 after the above-described timed, recess etching process was performed to recess the layer of insulating material 114 to a desired height level within the isolation region opening 112.

[0059] FIG. 4F depicts the product after a conformal deposition process was performed to form a conformal layer of isolation protection material 148 above the patterned fin masking layer 111 and in the openings 112. As described more fully below, after performing additional processing operations, the portions of the conformal layer of isolation protection material 148 in the isolation region opening 112 will constitute the isolation protection layer 125 that is positioned above the isolation region 127. The conformal layer of isolation protection material 148 may be comprised of any desired material, e.g., silicon nitride, silicon oxynitride, etc., and it may be formed to any desired thickness, e.g., 15-30 nm.

[0060] FIG. 4G depicts the product 100 after a layer of masking material 150, such as silicon dioxide, etc., was deposited so as to substantially fill the remaining portions of the isolation region opening 112 and after a CMP process was performed to planarize the upper surface of the layer of masking material 150 with the upper surface of the conformal layer of isolation protection material 148.

[0061] FIG. 4H depicts the product 100 after a timed, recess etching process was performed to recess the layer of masking material 150 (e.g., silicon dioxide) to a desired height level within the isolation region opening 112. In one embodiment, the layer of masking material 150 may be recessed until such time as there is about 15-30 nm of the layer of masking material 150 remaining in the isolation region opening 112 above the conformal layer of isolation protection material 148.

[0062] FIG. 41 depicts the product after several process operations were performed. First, an etching process was performed to remove exposed portions of the layer of masking material 150 so as to expose the upper surface and sidewalls of the patterned fin masking layer 111. Then, another etching process was performed to remove the layer of sacrificial material 140 selectively relative to the conformal layer of silicon dioxide 138. Next, another etching process was performed to remove the conformal layer of silicon dioxide 138 and the remaining portions of the layer of masking material 150. The removal of the conformal layer of silicon dioxide 138 exposes the upper surface and sidewalls of the fins 106A-C. As depicted, the remaining portions of the conformal layer of isolation protection material 148 in the isolation region opening 112 constitutes the isolation protection layer 125 that is positioned above the isolation region 127. At this point, the FinFET device may be completed using traditional fabrication techniques. For example, the gate structure 130, the gate cap layer 132 and sidewall spacer 134 depicted in FIG. 2Q may be formed.

[0063] FIG. 5 depicts one illustrative embodiment of an integrated circuit product 100 that includes FinFET devices and an isolation region 127 and one illustrative embodiment of a novel isolation protection layer 125 disclosed herein positioned above the isolation region 127. FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view taken through the fin 106B and the gate structure 130 in a gate length (GL) direction of the device after several process operations were performed.

[0064] For example, FIG. 5 depicts the product 100 after the above-described isolation region 127 (comprising the insulating material 114) and the above-described novel isolation protection layer 125 was formed above the isolation region 127. Thereafter, a plurality of gates 160 were formed across the substrate 102 and above the novel isolation protection layer 125. In one illustrative example, the formation of the gates 160 may involve forming the materials for the gate structures 130 and the gate cap layer 132 across the product 100 and thereafter patterning those materials using traditional masking and etching processes. Thereafter, the sidewall spacer 134 may be formed by performing a conformal deposition process to form a layer of spacer material across the substrate 102 and above the novel isolation protection layer 125 and thereafter performing an anisotropic etching process to remove substantially horizontally positioned portions of the layer of spacer material. As depicted in FIG. 5, in one illustrative embodiment where the sidewall spacer 134 and the isolation protection layer 125 are comprised of the same (or similar) material(s), such as silicon nitride, a notch or recess 125X is formed in the isolation protection layer 125 when the anisotropic etching process is performed to form the spacer 134 such that the isolation protection layer 125 has a stepped configuration due to the presence of the notch 125X. That is, in the cross-sectional view shown in FIG. 5 (through the gate in the gate length (GL) direction of the device), the portions of the isolation protection layer 125 positioned under the sidewall spacer 134 and the gate structure 130 are thicker than the portions of the isolation protection layer 125 not covered by the spacer 134 and the gate structure 130. As noted above with respect to FIG. 2Q, the isolation protection layer 125 also has this same stepped configuration when viewed in a cross-section taken through the gate in a gate width direction of the device. In this particular example, the isolation protection layer 125 may be comprised of silicon nitride so as to protect the underlying silicon dioxide insulation material 114 in the device isolation structure 127 as subsequent processing proceeds on the device, thereby eliminating or at least reducing the formation of the divots in the isolation material as discussed in the background section of this application.

[0065] The particular embodiments disclosed above are illustrative only, as the invention may be modified and practiced in different but equivalent manners apparent to those skilled in the art having the benefit of the teachings herein. For example, the process steps set forth above may be performed in a different order. Furthermore, no limitations are intended to the details of construction or design herein shown, other than as described in the claims below. It is therefore evident that the particular embodiments disclosed above may be altered or modified and all such variations are considered within the scope and spirit of the invention. Note that the use of terms, such as "first," "second," "third" or "fourth" to describe various processes or structures in this specification and in the attached claims is only used as a shorthand reference to such steps/structures and does not necessarily imply that such steps/structures are performed/formed in that ordered sequence. Of course, depending upon the exact claim language, an ordered sequence of such processes may or may not be required.

[0066] As used herein, spatial references "top," "bottom," "upper," "lower," "vertical," "horizontal" and the like may be used for convenience when referring to structures of FET devices. These references are intended to be used in a manner consistent with the drawings only for teaching purposes, and are not intended as absolute references for FET structures. For example, FETs may be oriented spatially in any manner different from the orientations shown in the drawings. Accordingly, the protection sought herein is as set forth in the claims below.

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