Comparison of Conventional and Variable Frequency Microwave Curing of SU8 Photoresist: Effects on the Dielectric, Thermal, and Morphological Properties
Variable Frequency Microwave (VFM) is known to be a rapid, volumetric, and selective form of heating which has shown potential as an alternative technique for the processing of negative-tone SU8 photoresist in the Micro-Electro-Mechanical System (MEMS) industry. A comparison of thermal properties of the films cured during the softbake and post exposure bake process using different techniques, i.e. conventional thermal curing, VFM curing, and a combination of both (referred to as hybrid, HY), was investigated using a Differential Scanning Calorimeter (DSC) and Thermogravimetric Analysis (TGA). A significant increase on the degree of cure (between 13 - 23%) was observed using the VFM over the hybrid and hotplate curing which means that SU8 curing at lower temperatures or rapid curing is possible. The increase in cure rates can be attributed to a combination of heat transfer and the unique capability of microwave to couple with the sample (selective heating). The improvement in curing at the same processing temperatures has important implications for processing thick films. It was found that regardless of curing methods, crosslink densities increased as the baking temperature increased, resulting in lower dielectric properties. Despite higher crosslinking contents, VFM cured samples decomposed at 2 - 4°C lower temperatures. In addition to better thermal properties, VFM offered satisfactory microstructure at lower curing temperatures; however, high processing temperatures could result in film cracking.