While Moore's law has mostly held true for the last 30 years, using the same \\$quot;scaleable\\$quot; methodologies will not meet the needs of the industry going forward. The analogy of scalability is that of folding an A4 sheet of paper in half ten times – at the seventh fold it becomes almost impossible. Similarly, scalability cannot be relied upon to make transistors smaller and new technologies and materials are required.
This means that suppliers will need to have a more innovative and systematic approach to help get around the limitations imposed by materials and power. Critically, design for manufacturing starts at the materials level and this means sinking resources into research and development with an uncertain return on that investment.
The result – expect to see gas companies moving into materials that will work with technologies such as ALD (Atomic Layer Deposition) but also entering into \\$quot;alliances\\$quot; either jointly or with specialty chemical companies to defray R&D costs.
To add to the challenges, big changes are underway in which chips are fabricated. Forecasts currently show Asia Pacific countries (China, Korea and Taiwan) passing Japan in total Fab capacity during the first half of this decade and accounting for 40% of the world's total wafer processing volume by 2009 with 60% of new Fab capacity being installed in that region. All of the gas companies will need to make significant investments in Asia over the next 5 years and, indeed, many of them, including Praxair and Air Products have already moved their senior staff to this region.
Adding to the difficulties of the gas industry are the increasing demands by the chip manufacturers for lower and lower costs as they seek to offer new technologies at the same price as the older ones. In the past, this was possible because the scalability of the technologies, as they came down to 130 microns, meant that the same materials could be used. Previously, lower costs were achieved by increased capacity and cost control; however going forward this will become increasingly difficult as new products demand more exotic, higher cost starting materials.
This year's Semicon West was attended by all 4 of the major US semiconductor gas companies and a number of smaller gas companies and associated chemical suppliersThe Major Players
Air Liquide has taken the move into new materials extremely seriously with the launch of their ALOHA brand. The ALOHA product line offers advanced CVD and ALD precursors for sub-130nm node applications and includes Ruthenium compounds as well as a new non-pyrophoric TMA substitute TDEAA.
In more traditional areas, Air Liquide Electronics will invest US$15M in a \\$quot;state-of–the-art\\$quot; Electronics Materials Center (EMC) in the Shanghai area. The new center will focus on Electronics Specialty Gases (ESG) activities, particularly for the purification and transfilling of materials used by semiconductor and Flat Panel Display (TFT-LCD) producers.
Air Products and Chemicals already supplies a wide range of gases and chemicals to the semiconductor industry, mainly through their Schumacher brand and also expanding into the supply of slurries and developer equipment. They were one of the first companies to form a strategic alliance with Akzo Nobel for the supply of Trimethyl Aluminium (TMA) used in the ALD process to deposit aluminium – previously, TMA was mainly used in the compound semiconductor industry for the manufacture of LED’s but is being increasingly used in the manufacture of DRAM in the silicon industry.
In addition to the recent announcement of building of a new high purity ammonia plant in Korea, Air Products used Semicon West 2005 to announce plans characteristic of the needs of the industry described above.
- The purchase of Ashland Chemicals has enabled Air Products to integrate the R&D facilities of the two companies which has resulted in a doubling of the Allentown (PA) electronics research and development facility, \\$quot;making it the most advanced and comprehensive center of any specialty materials supplier to the electronics industry\\$quot;.
- A new copper and tungsten formulation for SMP slurries in association with DuPont.