Cubic or metastable cubic refractory metal carbides act as barrier layers to isolate, adhere, and passivate copper in semiconductor fabrication. One or more barrier layers of the metal carbide are deposited in conjunction with copper metallizations to form a multilayer characterized by a cubic crystal structure with a strong (100) texture. Suitable barrier layer materials include refractory transition metal carbides such as vanadium carbide (VC), niobium carbide (NbC), tantalum carbide (TaC), chromium carbide (Cr.sub.3 C.sub.2), tungsten carbide (WC), and molybdenum carbide (MoC).
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the Regents of the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.