An improved apparatus and method for thermal processing of semiconductor wafers. The apparatus and method provide the temperature stability and uniformity of a conventional batch furnace as well as the processing speed and reduced time-at-temperature of a lamp-heated rapid thermal processor (RTP). Individual wafers are rapidly inserted into and withdrawn from a furnace cavity held at a nearly constant and isothermal temperature. The speeds of insertion and withdrawal are sufficiently large to limit thermal stresses and thereby reduce or prevent plastic deformation of the wafer as it enters and leaves the furnace. By processing the semiconductor wafer in a substantially isothermal cavity, the wafer temperature and spatial uniformity of the wafer temperature can be ensured by measuring and controlling only temperatures of the cavity walls. Further, peak power requirements are very small compared to lamp-heated RTPs because the cavity temperature is not cycled and the thermal mass of the cavity is relatively large. Increased speeds of insertion and/or removal may also be used with non-isothermal furnaces.
STATEMENT OF GOVERNMENT INTEREST
This invention was made with Government support under contract No. DE-AC04-94AL85000 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to Sandia Corporation. The Government has certain rights in the invention.