An approach allowing surface-confined activation of porous organosilicate based low-k dielectrics is proposed and studied. By examining the plasma damage mechanism of low-k, we came up with an initial idea that the main requirements for the surface-confined modification would be the high reactivity and high recombination rate of the plasma species. Based on this concept, CO2 plasma was selected and benchmarked with several other plasmas. It is demonstrated that a short exposure of organosilicate low-k films to CO2 plasma enables high surface hydrophilicity with limited bulk modification. CO2+ ions predominantly formed in this plasma have high oxidation potential and efficiently remove surface -CH3 groups from low-k. At the same time, the CO2+ ions get easily discharged (deactivated) during their collisions with pore walls and therefore have very limited probability of penetration into the low-k bulk. Low concentration of oxygen radicals is another factor avoiding the bulk damage. The chemical reactions describing the interactions between CO2 plasma and low-k dielectrics are proposed.

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