We applied our original chemical mechanical polishing (CMP) simulator based on the tight-binding quantum chemical molecular dynamics (TB-QCMD) method to clarify the atomistic mechanism of CMP processes on a Cu(111) surface polished with a SiO2 abrasive grain in aqueous H2O2. We reveal that the oxidation of the Cu(111) surface mechanically induced at the friction interface is a key process in CMP. In aqueous H2O2, in the first step, OH groups and O atoms adsorbed on a nascent Cu surface are generated by the chemical reactions of H2O2 molecules. In the second step, at the friction interface between the Cu surface and the abrasive grain, the surface-adsorbed O atom intrudes into the Cu bulk and dissociates the Cu-Cu bonds. The dissociation of the Cu-Cu back-bonds raises a Cu atom from the surface that is mechanically sheared by the abrasive grain. In the third step, the raised Cu atom bound to the surface-adsorbed OH groups is removed from the surface by the generation and desorption of a Cu(OH)2 molecule. In contrast, in pure water, there are no geometrical changes in the Cu surface because the H2O molecules do not react with the Cu surface, and the abrasive grain slides smoothly on the planar Cu surface. The comparison between the CMP simulations in aqueous H2O2 and pure water indicates that the intrusion of a surface-adsorbed O atom into the Cu bulk is the most important process for the efficient polishing of the Cu surface because it induces the dissociation of the Cu-Cu bonds and generates raised Cu atoms that are sheared off by the abrasive grain. Furthermore, density functional theory calculations show that the intrusion of the surface-adsorbed O atoms into the Cu bulk has a high activation energy of 28.2 kcal/mol, which is difficult to overcome at 300 K. Thus, we suggest that the intrusion of surface-adsorbed O atoms into the Cu bulk induced by abrasive grains at the friction interface is a rate-determining step in the Cu CMP process.
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