Metallisation and structuring of low temperature Co-fired ceramic for micro and millimetre wave applications

2015-11-09T15:06:58Z (GMT) by Dilshani Rathnayake-Arachchige
The recent developments in Low Temperature Co-fired Ceramic (LTCC) as a substrate material enable it to be used in the micro and millimetre wave range providing low dissipation factors at high frequencies, good dielectric properties and a high degree of integration for further miniaturised devices. The most common metallisation method used in LTCC technology is screen printing with high cost noble metals such as silver and gold that are compatible with the high sintering temperatures (8500C). However, these techniques require high capital cost and maintenance cost. As the commercial world requires convenient and low cost process technologies for mass production, alternative metallisation methods should be considered. As a result, electroless copper plating of fired LTCC was mainly investigated in this research. The main goals of this project were to carry out electroless plating of fired LTCC with sufficient adhesion and to extend the process to metallise closed LTCC channel structures to manufacture Substrate Integrated Waveguide (SIW) components. The objectives were focused on electroless copper deposition on fired LTCC with improved adhesion. Electroless deposits on the Sn/Pd activated LTCC surface showed poor adhesion without any surface pre-treatments. Hence, chemical etching of fired LTCC was carried out using concentrated NaOH solution. NaOH pre-treatment of LTCC led to the formation of flake like structures on the LTCC surface. A number of surface and chemical analysis techniques and weight measurements were used to investigate the mechanism of the modification of the LTCC surface. The results showed that the flake like structures were dispersed in the LTCC material and a material model for the LTCC structure was proposed. SEM EDX elemental mapping showed that the flake like structure consisted of aluminium, calcium, boron and oxygen. Further experiments showed that both the concentration of NaOH and the immersion time affect the surface morphology and the roughness of fired LTCC. The measured Ra values were 0.6 m for untreated LTCC and 1.1 m for the LTCC sample treated with 4M NaOH for 270 minutes. Adhesion tests including peel test and scratch test were carried out to examine the adhesion strength of the deposited copper and both tests indicated that the NaOH pre-treatment led to an improvement, with the best results achieved for samples treated with 4M NaOH. A second aspect of the research focused on the selective metallisation of fired LTCC. Excimer laser machining was used to pattern a resist film laminated on the LTCC surface. This process also roughened the substrate and created channels that were characterised with respect to the laser operating parameters. After patterning the resist layer, samples were activated using Sn/Pd catalyst solution followed by the electroless copper deposition. Electroless copper was selectively deposited only on the patterned LTCC surface. Laser parameters clearly affected the copper plating rate. Even with a similar number of shots per area, the tracks machined with higher repetition rate showed relatively more machining depth as well as good plating conditions with low resistance values. The process was further implemented to realize a complete working circuit on fired LTCC. Passive components including a capacitor and an inductor were also fabricated on LTCC using the mask projection technique of the excimer laser system. This was successful for many designs, but when the separation between conductor lines dropped below 18 m, electroless copper started to deposit on the areas between them. Finally, a method to deposit copper films on the internal walls of closed channel structures was developed. The method was first demonstrated by flowing electroless copper solutions through silane treated glass capillaries. A thin layer (approx. 60 nm) of electroless copper was deposited only on the internal walls of the glass capillaries. The flow rate of the electroless copper solution had to be maintained at a low level as the copper deposits tended to wash away with higher flow rates. The structures were tested for transmission losses and showed low (<10dB) transmission losses in the terahertz region of the electromagnetic spectrum. The process was further applied to deposit electroless copper on the internal walls of the LTCC closed channel structures to manufacture a LTCC Substrate Integrated Waveguide (SIW).