Inside Plasma

It’s a cleanroom life

Apps-Lab

A friend once commented to me that being in a cleanroom was a great place to be as all the things that kicked off her allergies were filtered out allowing her some respite from hay fever. Now I’m not suggesting that we all move into cleanrooms but as semiconductor devices become smaller and smaller, they become more sensitive to dust, vapours, and other airborne particles. Taking pollen as an example – it is typically >10µm in size whereas critical dimensions on some devices are now 0.01µm! So one piece of pollen would ruin your device!

Plasma Technology maintains a state of the art cleanroom staffed by highly skilled engineers allowing our customers to evaluate the performance of our process technology and equipment. Many of our customers either visit the lab to conduct on site trials or send sample substrates to trial and test.

The ultra controlled environment is also a place where we develop new processes and system technologies to support existing and emerging markets. The applications team and cleanroom are fundamental to the success of the business. It’s an area that we invest in to maintain and enhance our capabilities to support our customer requirements. We do this by bringing new customer demonstration capacity and new hardware and process capabilities into the cleanroom. We also have to ensure we have the correct metrology in place to ensure that engineers can provide the data that our customer’s require to achieve their application.      

To achieve the above we have to maintain the integrity of the cleanroom and its utilities which are mainly water, process gases, electricity, compressed air, air handling and filtration and gas abatement. Anyone entering the clean room is required to wear protective clothing to prevent contamination of the devices or samples that they are working on.

As we continue to support our traditional markets of Optoelectronics, Discrete Devices and MEMs/Sensors, we are also seeing an increasing trend towards specialist production markets and atomic scale processing. These two areas put their own demands on the cleanroom;

  • Production systems typically require cassette to cassette handlers with marathon runs during development to check for repeatability of critical parameters including added particles to the wafer.
  • Atomic scale processing
    • We are seeing an increasing demand from customers for our atomic layer deposition for both dielectric and conductive films deposited using plasma or thermal depending on the film requirements.
    • Atomic layer etch is gaining traction especially for etching of thin films in devices that have requirement to stop at a specific etch depth in a material and/or low plasma damage of sensitive surfaces exposed during the process
    • Much interest is shown in graphene which we have deposited in our nanofab for several years. We have developed and are seeing increasing demand for MoS2 and hBN films and we are actively developing new 2D materials and the deposition of hetrostructures of 2D materials. Watch this space!
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