Process for producing a porous layer by an electrochemical...

Electrolysis: processes – compositions used therein – and methods – Electrolytic erosion of a workpiece for shape or surface... – Using mask

Reexamination Certificate

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Reexamination Certificate

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06398943

ABSTRACT:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
The invention relates to a process for producing a porous layer with the aid of an electrochemical etching process. The invention also relates to an optical component.
2. Description of the Related Art
A process for producing a porous layer with the aid of an electrochemical etching process as well as a process is known.
As state of the art it is known, for example, to produce porous silicon (PS) by electrochemical etching of silicon wafers, especially for the use in the production of computer chips. Layers formed in this manner have a structure similar to a sponge and manifest a multiplicity of interesting characteristics.
One field of application for PS is its use in optical components. It is known, for example, from DE 43 19 413.3-33 or Thin Solid Films, 276 (1996), 143-146 to produce waveguides, transmission filters, reflectors or antireflection layers using layer systems of PS. The optical characteristics of the layer system can be varied by the sequence of individual layers with different optical thicknesses.
The optical thicknesses of these individual layers are influenced for a given doping by their porosities and thicknesses. The porosities and thicknesses are controlled for a predetermined doping by the current density or the duration of the electrochemical etching. With control of the duration of the etching only it is possible, for a predetermined substrate and predetermined current density, to set the desired layer thickness. So as to integrate PS with other components, the surface which is to form such structure by etching must be defined. The conventional structuring of the substrate prior to producing the porous layer with an etching mask gives rise to a curvature of the PS/substrate interface during production (FIG.
1
). In experiments, strips of a length of 1 cm and a width corresponding to the respective spacings from the next strip were investigated. As can be seen from
FIG. 1
, there exists two curvatures, one curvature within a strip and a curvature over all of the strips. These curvatures result disadvantageously in an inhomogeneity of the layer (see FIG.
5
).
If the characteristic structure is 100 &mgr;m or smaller, the PS/substrate interface is straight (FIG.
2
). In the process whereby interface curvature can occur, these small structures can no longer be resolved. For the use of PS which lies below this order of magnitude, the problem of an inhomogeneity of filters and reflectors because of interface curvature no longer exists.
From
FIG. 2
it can be seen that a structuring with photolacquer gives rise to a significant underetching of the etching mask. This can be limited by the use of another etching mask material, e.g. silicon nitride (Si
3
N
4
), (see M. Krüger et al, Thin Solid Films 276 (1996) 257-260). With the aid of this mask technique it is possible to fabricate a structure from PS which has both a straight PS/substrate interface and also vertical etching flanks. With these conditions a production of layer systems from porous silicon is possible whose characteristics can be previously determined.
As to production of a multiplicity of porous regions on the same wafer, in the past they could be made only if they were to have the same characteristics. If it was intended that these regions were to constitute pixels of different characteristics, for example, for a filter array of a porous layer system, these could not be simultaneously etched. This resulted in the drawback that previously made porous layers had to be covered so that they would maintain their characteristics during the etching of the new pixels. This procedure is very difficult and expensive to realize and up to now has not truly been possible, since this covering must be removable without leaving residues on the porous layer.
OBJECTS OF THE INVENTION
It is thus the object of the invention to provide a process for producing a porous layer with the aid of an electrochemical etching process in which the aforementioned drawbacks are avoided.
The etching for porosidizing the material is carried out in accordance with the invention using an etching mask. It has been recognized that an etching mask of suitable geometry for the desired characteristics of the deep etching must be formed and used in the process of the invention.
It is further noted within the framework of the invention that the simultaneous formation of pixels within a porosidizable structure with different characteristics is possible in a single working procedure when the etching rate of each pixel is not predetermined only by the externally applied current density but is also collaterally determined by the different environments of the pixels. The environments of the pixels can be so formed by the etching mask that the pixels are subject to different current densities and thus have different etching rates. In this manner the desired different characteristics can be generated.
In this way the process according to the invention enables multiple, especially many, working steps to be replaced by a single step of suitable configuration. A further advantage of this process is that a continuous modification of the characteristics of a porous layer is possible. This process can be used for all electrochemical etching procedures.
According to the invention, the process for producing a porous layer with the aid of an electrochemical etching process can use an etching mask for the desired course of deep etching.
According to another aspect of the invention the process according to the invention is advantageously configured in that a wedge-shaped etching mask is selected to provide a continuous course of the deep-etching rate.
According to another feature, the process of the invention is characterized advantageously in that, for the formation of a discrete course of the deep-etching rate, one or a plurality of wedge-shaped step-shaped structured etching masks are used.
The process according to the invention is advantageously so carried out that silicon, germanium or aluminum is selected as the starting material for porous layer formation. These materials have comparatively well known properties with respect to etching.
Optical components with the layer according to the invention are also deemed to be within the invention.


REFERENCES:
patent: 3971710 (1976-07-01), Romankiw
patent: 4092445 (1978-05-01), Tsuzuki et al.
“Using Porous Silicon as a Sacrificial Layer” by P. Steiner et al. (J. Micromech. MicroEng. 3 (1993) 32-36. No month provided.
“Formation of Porous Silicon on Patterned Subsstrates” by M. Krüger et al. (Thin Solid Films 276 (1996) 257-260). No month provided.

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