The macroscopic uniformity of deep etching into silicon by reactive ion etching (RIE) with a SF6-O-2 plasma was studied. The spatial variation of the etch rate across a 4 inch wafer in a single wafer system is a function of the process parameters and the configuration of the etch chamber. It was found that, for a constant load of silicon exposed to the plasma, the etch rate variation can be controlled through the applied rf power, the chamber pressure, and the gas mixture. It was also found that the etch rate uniformity varies with the load of silicon exposed to the plasma. The result is a balance between the flux of neutral radicals and the flux of energetic ions to the surface. This balance is due to the RIE etch mechanism, which involves synergism between the two fluxes. (C) 1997 American Vacuum Society.