After gasworld provided an insight into developments in the electronics market in its July issue and also recently reported of the possible environmental damage of NF3, news reaches us that The Linde Group now offers a unique solution to replace nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) in the production of LCD's and solar panels.

Based on a proven technology, the innovative process utilises on-site generation of fluorine gas, making production more efficient and more environmentally friendly.

There is currently a high level of attention on the usage of NF3 by the electronics industry because of the gas’ very high global warming impact. Linde has now developed the state-of-the-art process to replace NF3 with pure fluorine however, which has a zero global warming potential.

The process is applicable to the manufacturing of flat screen TV's and to the mass production of low cost, thin film photovoltaic cells, which convert sunlight into electricity. As well as fluorine’s environmental advantage, it also improves performance and reduces costs in the chamber cleaning process, a critical step in the manufacturing of semiconductors, flat panels, and solar cells.

Dean O’Connor, Head of Solar Business, Linde Gases Division, reflected,“Eliminating NF3 from LCD and solar manufacturing makes environmental and economic sense. Fluorine reduces non-productive cleaning time on the most expensive piece of equipment in the fab and improves customer throughput.$quot;

$quot;It is a very good example of environmentally friendly solutions that also improve cost efficiency.”

Tests carried out at Linde’s Application Development Lab in San Marcos, California, demonstrated that fluorine can significantly improve throughput in plasma activated cleaning, while qualification trials show that fluorine can reduce the cleaning time needed for NF3 on the same tool set.

Faster cleaning of the manufacturing equipment eliminates a bottleneck process and gives customers a significant productivity improvement.

“Linde is committed to delivering new processes that do not harm people or the environment,” said Paul Stockman, Technology Manager for Linde’s fluorine Business.

“Our customers in LCD and solar manufacturing expect Linde, as their supplier, to help them drive down costs. By replacing NF3 with on-site fluorine we achieve both these objectives. This shows how Linde’s investment in engineering and technology solutions can enable mutual benefits for our customers and the environment.”

Linde’s on-site fluorine generators have been installed at more than 20 semiconductor, LCD and solar cell production sites, including Toshiba Matsushita Display, Samsung, and LG.