These contributions have come from relatively small groups of researchers working in industrial, national, and university laboratories in the United States. However, the efforts have been almost totally uncoordinated. For example, diagnostic measurements are made on one material system and reactor design while simulations are performed on a different material system and reactor design. Furthermore, production reactors represent yet another technology. As a result, basic science studies have contributed greatly to our collective intuition but little to our ability to quantitatively simulate processes or design reactors.
The synergism of scientific intuition and the empirical method has been successful for the fabrication of the relatively simple and modest-density microelectronic devices of the 1980s. However, the empirical relationships that are used today to relate wafer attributes (film thickness, anisotropy, uniformity, damage, residues, and so on) to process variables (e.g., power, gas composition, flow rates, pressure) are equipment and process specific and cannot be applied to the new equipment and processes needed for future generations of devices. The recalibration and reoptimization of manufacturing process steps by empirical means alone is inefficient and costly.
Unfortunately, the complexity of plasma processes and the lack of fundamental understanding make detailed, quantitative process simulation based on first principles seem unlikely in the near future. However, scaling laws based on fundamental plasma science could readily be used in transferring processes from reactor to reactor or from one processing regime