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20 July 2009


ATMI and SAFC Hitech to co-market solid-source vaporizer to both silicon and compound sectors

At last week’s SEMICON West trade show in San Francisco, CA, ATMI Inc of Danbury, CT and chemical manufacturer SAFC Hitech (a business segment of SAFC within the Sigma-Aldrich Group) announced plans to co-market ATMI’s ProE-Vap system, a solid-source vaporizer designed for atomic layer deposition (ALD) that is currently in demand for volume production of high-k/metal gate applications. The ensuing marketing partnership will cover both the silicon and compound semiconductor markets. A definitive agreement is expected to be signed this summer.

“The ProE-Vap system removes a significant barrier to achieving successful ALD applications processes and overcoming manufacturing process challenges,” claims Tod Higinbotham, ATMI’s executive VP, Process Solutions. “In partnering with Sigma Aldrich, we will bring ProE-Vap technology benefits to a broader customer base and alleviate any single-source supply chain concerns,” he adds.

ATMI developed the ProE-Vap system to address challenges in vaporizing solid materials for ALD processes. Customers using conventional solid vaporization techniques reported problems with film uniformity, particles and process consistency. ATMI says that its exclusive tray technology in the ProE-Vap system provides more solid precursor surface area and greater heat uniformity to enhance vaporization and process stability. By delivering a higher flux of materials, the ProE-Vap system opens the door to the use of new classes of chemistries, the firm adds.

Additionally, the system has the potential to produce greater uniformity from wafer to wafer and to extend ampoule lifetime, resulting in process efficiency gains and cost of ownership reductions, ATMI reckons.

The partnership will see both SAFC Hitech and ATMI offer ProE-Vap systems to the mainstream semiconductor sector. SAFC will also make ProE-Vap technology available to the compound semiconductor market - a segment that ATMI has not previously targeted, which could lead to new opportunities and uses for ProE-Vap technology. SAFC Hitech supplies specialty gases and metal-organics to the compound semiconductor market, including TMG, TMI, TEG, DEZ and other advanced materials.

“ProE-Vap represents a proven, efficient way of delivering solid material in semiconductor applications,” says SAFC Hitech president Barry Leese. “The ProE-Vap technology may better enable the delivery and efficient use of compound semiconductor solid metal-organics, leading to better products and potential breakthroughs in the utilization of these materials in the LED marketplace,” he adds.

Analyst firm Yole Développement forecasts that the materials segment of the compound semiconductor market is expected to grow from $800m in 2007 to more than $1bn by the end of 2010, driven by strong demand in the LED, solid-state lighting, optoelectronics and solar segments.

SAFC Hitech updates product roadmap for MOCVD and ALD materials

At SEMICON West, SAFC Hitech also announced details of its new materials roadmap for metal-organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) and atomic layer deposition (ALD) processes on silicon substrates, outlining the development paths across current and future advanced memory and logic devices (including barrier layers, interconnects, dielectrics and metals) that it expects to see play out between now and 2014.

SAFC Hitech last reviewed its semiconductor materials roadmap in mid-2007, but the firm says that regular monitoring is required to ascertain whether the market has evolved as expected. “There are numerous variables that can affect the selection, timing of insertion point and volume demand for electronic materials,” says Dr Geoff Irvine, VP of business development. “SAFC Hitech routinely analyzes external guidelines such as the ITRS roadmap [the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors], trends in device development and economic conditions, and performs evaluations of our own R&D programs, allied to what we are seeing in our partnerships with customers,” he adds. “Through assessment, for example, if there are certain materials that have been adopted more rapidly than anticipated or adapted for an alternative application and, conversely, if there are some that may have seen a delay or reconsideration in use, our review process enables us to recast the materials requirements of the semiconductor industry and revise our roadmap accordingly.”

The pace and breadth of new materials exploration and adoption beyond traditional materials still found in high-volume applications (such as silicon dioxide dielectric) is occurring at a rate not seen before in the industry: “Historically, the lifecycle of materials for semiconductors on a per unit process basis extended across multiple technology nodes,” says Irvine. “What we are experiencing now is a shortening of the lifespan of materials used across node generations as progress in the development of next-generation devices demands integration of new materials to meet performance criteria. The rapid adoption of materials such as aluminum, hafnium and zirconium oxides, and mixed silicates, in production processes for both memory and logic applications, is one such example,” he adds.

“This rapid adoption and developmental trend is perfectly illustrated by deposition materials and the rate of adoption and subsequent change of materials employed for dielectric materials for metal-insulator-metal (MIM) capacitors in the manufacture of DRAM devices,” explains chief technology officer Ravi Kanjolia. “Precursor chemistries have transitioned rapidly from providing solutions for growing high-quality conformal amorphous films of Al 2O 3 to HfO 2 followed by ZrO 2,” he adds. “Similar trends regarding timescales for the adoption and integration of new materials in other functional layers of the devices are now also being seen.”

Looking ahead, SAFC Hitech is continuing its focus on next-generation high-k dielectrics for gate applications, high-k and ultra-high-k dielectrics for capacitor applications, the further development of metal gates, new electrode materials for DRAM, and materials for copper barrier and copper seed layers. The also claims significant progress in developing germanium antimony telluride (GST) precursors for use in high-volume phase change memory (PCM), a non-volatile computer memory that allows for the scaling of ultimate feature size further than is possible with conventional Flash memories (offering greater storage capacity and superior performance for memory devices, and viewed as a strong replacement candidate for NAND Flash).

See related items:

SAFC Hitech and AWI extend compound semiconductor and silicon R&D services collaboration

ASM and SAFC Hitech partner on ALD of strontium- and barium-based ultra-high-k insulators

See: SAFC Hitech Company Profile