Several lifetime models, mostly empirical in nature, are used to predict reliability for low-k dielectrics used in integrated circuits. There is a dispute over which model provides the most accurate prediction for device lifetime at operating conditions. As a result, there is a need to transition from the use of these largely empirical models to one built entirely on theory. Therefore, a charge transport model was developed to predict the device lifetime of low-k interconnect systems. The model is based on electron transport and donor-type defect formation. Breakdown occurs when a critical defect concentration accumulates, resulting in electron tunneling and the emptying of positively charged traps. The enhanced local electric field lowers the barrier for electron injection into the dielectric, causing a positive feedforward failure. The charge transport model is able to replicate experimental I-V and I-t curves, capturing the current decay at early stress times and the rapid current increase at failure. The model is based on field-driven and current-driven failure mechanisms and uses a minimal number of parameters. All the parameters have some theoretical basis or have been measured experimentally and are not directly used to fit the slope of the time-to-failure versus applied field curve. Despite this simplicity, the model is able to accurately predict device lifetime for three different sources of experimental data. The simulation's predictions at low fields and very long lifetimes show that the use of a single empirical model can lead to inaccuracies in device reliability.
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