Piezoelectric thin films for bulk acoustic wave resonator applications from processing to microwave filters

Bandpass filters for microwave frequencies realized with thin film bulk acoustic wave resonators (FBAR) are a promising alternative to current dielectric or surface acoustic wave filters for use in mobile telecommunication applications. With equivalent performance, FBAR filters are significantly smaller than dielectric filters and allow for a larger power operation than SAW filters. In addition, FBARs offer the possibility of on-chip integration, which will result in substantial volume and cost reduction. The first passive FBAR devices are now appearing on the market. They mainly cover needs in miniaturized RF-filters for the new bands around 2 GHz. A FBAR is essentially a thin piezoelectric plate sandwiched between two electrodes and acoustically isolated from the environment for energy trapping purposes. If the isolation is effectuated by an acoustic Bragg reflector, one speaks of solidly mounted resonators (SMR). Piezoelectric aluminum nitride (AlN) thin films are predominantly used in the emerging FBAR technology because AlN exhibits a sufficient electromechanical coupling coefficient kt2 , low acoustic losses at microwave frequencies, a low temperature coefficient of frequency, and its chemical composition is compatible with CMOS requirements. This thesis has two research directions. In the first part, FBAR structures based on AlN thin films were investigated for applications at X-band frequencies (7.2-8.5 GHz), i.e. operating at much higher frequencies than the ones used for present products. The goal was to identify property limitations related to such high frequencies, and to demonstrate to industry high performing SMR filters at 8 GHz. In the second part, a new material for FBAR devices was studied. The motivation is that AlN allows for a restricted filter bandwidth only, limited by its coupling factor of maximal 7%. Monocrystalline KNbO3 appears as an ideal alternative with its high coupling factor kt2 of 47%, and relatively large sound velocity of 8125m/s for longitudinal waves along the [101] direction. Piezoelectricity of KNbO3 films grown on electrodes has never been characterized. Single crystal results indicate that the optimal film texture would be (101). In this thesis, the growth of KNbO3 films on Pt electrodes was studied with the goal to achieve this texture uniformly, and to characterize piezoelectric properties. X-band FBAR's were first studied with numerical simulations based on a one-dimensional theory of the thickness-extensional bulk acoustic wave (BAW). Thickness, acoustic properties and electrical conductivity of the electrodes have a large impact on the resonator characteristics. There are conflicting requirements with respect to optimum acoustic and electrical properties of the electrode materials. An optimum thickness was calculated for 8GHz FBARs that use Pt bottom and Al top electrodes. The characteristics of ladder filters have been calculated based on the impedances of single resonators. The adjustable filter parameters, i.e. the areas of series and shunt resonators, frequency de-tuning between series and parallel resonators, and number of π-sections were screened for a process window offering maximum filter bandwidth with lowest ripple and low insertion loss for a given out-of-band rejection. An important result of the numerical simulations was that the bandwidth of ladder filters can be doubled by de-tuning the series and parallel resonators by more (1.3 times) than the difference of resonance and anti-resonance frequency. This also leads to a flatter passband while keeping the ripples below ±0.2dB. Solidly mounted resonators and filters were fabricated using an acoustic multilayer reflector consisting of AlN and SiO2 λ/4 layers. All films were sputter deposited in a high vacuum sputter cluster system with 4 process chambers. The films were patterned using standard photolithography and dry etching processes. The SMR exhibited a strong and spurious-free resonance at 8GHz with a high quality factor of 360 and electromechanical coupling coefficient of 6.0%. The temperature coefficient of frequency was -18ppm/K, and the voltage coefficient of frequency was -72ppm/V. Passband ladder filters with T- and π-topology consisting of 3 to 14 SMR were successfully demonstrated with a center frequency of 8GHz. These filters were optimized for maximum bandwidth and exhibited an insertion loss of 5.5dB, a rejection of 32dB, a 0.2dB bandwidth of 99MHz (1.3%), and a 3dB bandwidth of 224MHz (2.9%). There was good correspondence between measured and simulated filter and resonator characteristics. For perfect agreement, parasitic elements needed to be taken into account. These were a series resistance of 5Ω and a parallel conductance of 2mS in case of single resonators. The series resistance can be explained with resistive losses in the electrodes, whereas the parallel conduction was due to conduction along the surface. For π-filters, an additional series inductance of 100pH was needed to obtain a satisfactory fit. This inductance increased the out-of band rejection and insertion loss. Besides the group delay variation, all industrial specifications were met. KNbO3 was in-situ sputter deposited at 500 to 600°C using a rf magnetron source. A dedicated sputter chamber with load-lock and oxygen resistant substrate heater was built for this purpose. The high volatility of potassium oxide requires a potassium enrichment of the target. Targets with several excess concentrations (in the form of K2CO3) were studied. Stoichiometric KNbO3 films were obtained with targets containing 25 and 40% excess K. Zero and 10% excess yielded K deficient films, whereas 100% and 200% excess K led to highly unstable targets with K accumulation on the target surface, resulting in K rich second phases. The potassium-to-niobium ratio in the films depends strongly on sputter pressure and substrate temperature. Dense films, nucleated with cubic {100} texture, were obtained on platinized silicon substrates with a 10nm thick IrO2 seed layer at substrate temperatures of 520°C. At lower temperatures the films were amorphous, and at higher temperatures the films were composed of individual and facetted KNbO3 grains. The cubic high-temperature {100} texture results in a mixed (101)/(010) texture in the orthorhombic room temperature phase. The measured relative permitivity of 420 indicates that both orientations are equally present. Micro-Raman confirms the orthorhombic line splitting. Piezoelectrical and ferroelectrical activity were verified by means of a piezoelectric sensitive atomic force microscope. A very large piezoelectric activity was observed on some of the grains, and the polarization could be switched on most of the grains. However, the average d33,f = e33/c33, as measured by means of laser interferometry, showed a modest value of 24pm/V. The effective coupling factor is derived as kt2=2.8%, which is small relative to the theoretical value of 47%. The high dielectric constant and the absence of piezoelectric activity along the [010] direction are responsible for the reduction of the kt2 factor. Film roughness, complexity of deposition process and open poling issue make KNbO3 integration into BAW devices a difficult task.

Setter, Nava
Lausanne, EPFL
Other identifiers:
urn: urn:nbn:ch:bel-epfl-thesis2991-1

 Record created 2005-03-16, last modified 2018-01-27

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