Apex SLR ICP etch system
Advanced Vacuum, a Plasma-Therm Co.
Saint Petersburg, FL

An Advanced Vacuum inductively coupled plasma etch system recently was installed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA, to help expand the fabrication capabilities of JPL’s Microdevices Laboratory (MDL).

The Microdevices Laboratory at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (NASA/JPL)
The MDL updated its wafer-level plasma processing equipment set with the sixth overall system from Plasma-Therm and Advanced Vacuum, and the third in the past two years. These systems are used to make critical components for NASA exploration, including detectors to map background cosmic radiation for better understanding of the universe’s beginnings; solid-state lasers used in
The Apex SLR ICP etch system.
detection of carbon dioxide and methane on Earth, Mars, and other planets; and infrared sensor arrays for terrestrial and extraterrestrial imaging.

The MDL has a multitude of both internal and external users, so ease of operation and the system’s reliability are important performance requirements. Industrial fabrication facilities are usually designed for mass production using a single set of standard processes. However, operations at MDL — which develops unique devices for space applications — must be much more versatile, involving research, development, and smallscale production of a broad range of devices, wafer sizes, wafer thicknesses, and material families.

The system is able to process a variety of materials, including dielectrics, metals, polymers, compound semiconductors, and superconducting materials. The recently installed system is process-qualified with fluorine-based chemistries to etch dielectrics and superconducting materials.

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