Air-gap transmission lines on printed circuit boards for chip-to-chip interconnections
Spencer, Todd Joseph
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Low-loss off-chip interconnects are required for energy-efficient communication in dense microprocessors. To meet these needs, air cavity parallel plate and microstrip lines with copper conductors were fabricated on an FR-4 epoxy-fiberglass substrate using conventional microelectronics manufacturing techniques. Copper transmission lines were separated by a composite dielectric of air and Avatrel 2000P and by a dielectric layer of air only. The composite dielectric lines were characterized to 10 GHz while the all air dielectric lines were characterized to 40 GHz. The transmission line structures showed loss as low 1.5 dB/cm at 40 GHz with an effective dielectric constant below 1.4. These novel structures show low loss in the dielectric due to the reduced relative permittivity and loss tangent introduced by the air cavity. Transmission line structures with a composite dielectric were built by coating the sacrificial polymer poly(propylene carbonate) (PPC) over a copper signal line, encapsulating with an overcoat polymer, electroplating a ground line, and decomposing PPC to form an air cavity. The signal and ground wires were separated by a layer of 15 µm of air and 20 µm of Avatrel 2000P. Air cavity formation reduced dielectric constant more than 30 percent and loss of less than 0.5 dB/cm was measured at 10 GHz. Residue from PPC decomposition was observed in the cavity of composite dielectric structures and the decomposition characteristics of PPC were evaluated to characterize the residue and understand its formation. Analysis of PPC decomposition based on molecular weight, molecular backbone structure, photoacid concentration and vapor pressure, casting solvent, and decomposition environment was performed using thermogravimetric analysis and extracting kinetic parameters. Novel interaction of copper and PPC was observed and characterized for the self-patterning of PPC on copper. Copper is dissolved from the surface during PPC spincoating and interacts with the polymer chains to improve stability. The improved thermal stability allows selective patterning of PPC on copper. Decomposition characteristics, residual metals analysis, and diffusion profile were analyzed. The unique interaction could simplify air-gap processing for transmission lines. Inorganic-organic hybrid polymers were characterized for use as overcoat materials. Curing characteristics of the monomers and mechanical properties of the polymer films were analyzed and compared with commercially available overcoat materials. The modulus and hardness of these polymers was too low for use as an air-gap overcoat, but may be valuable as a barrier layer for some applications. The knowledge gained from building transmission line structures with a composite dielectric, analyzing PPC decomposition, interaction with copper, and comparison of hybrid polymers with commercial overcoats was used to build air-gap structures with improved electrical design. The ground metal was separated from the signal only by air. The signal wire was supported from above using 60 µm of Avatrel 8000P as an overcoat. Structures showed loss of less than 1.5 dB/cm at 40 GHz, the lowest reported value for a fully encapsulated transmission line structure.