Due to the ever increasing relevance of finer machining control as well as necessary reduction in material waste by large area semiconductor device manufacturers, a novel bulk laser machining method was investigated. Because the cost of silicon and sapphire substrates are limiting to the reduction in cost of devices in both the light emitting diode (LED) and solar industries, and the present substrate wafering process results in >50% waste, the need for an improved ingot wafering technique exists.
The focus of this work is the design and understanding of a novel semiconductor wafering technique that utilizes the nonlinear absorption properties of band-gapped materials to achieve bulk (subsurface) morphological changes in matter using highly focused laser light. A method and tool was designed and developed to form controlled damage regions in the bulk of a crystalline sapphire wafer leaving the surfaces unaltered. The controllability of the subsurface damage geometry was investigated, and the effect of numerical aperture of the focusing optic, energy per pulse, wavelength, and number of pulses was characterized for a nanosecond pulse length variable wavelength Nd:YAG OPO laser.
A novel model was developed to describe the geometry of laser induced morphological changes in the bulk of semiconducting materials for nanosecond pulse lengths. The beam propagation aspect of the model was based on ray-optics, and the full Keldysh multiphoton photoionization theory in conjuncture with Thornber's and Drude's models for impact ionization were used to describe high fluence laser light absorption and carrier generation ultimately resulting in permanent material modification though strong electron-plasma absorption and plasma melting. Although the electron-plasma description of laser damage formation is usually reserved for extremely short laser pulses (<20 ps), this work shows that it can be adapted for longer pulses of up to tens of nanoseconds.
In addition to a model describing damage formation of sub-band gap energy laser light in semiconducting and transparent crystalline dielectrics, a novel nanosecond laser process was successfully realized to generate a thin plane of damage in the bulk of sapphire wafers. This was accomplished using high numerical aperture optics, a variable wavelength nanosecond laser source, and three-dimensional motorized precision stage control.