Air Liquide has announced it has signed a major ultra-pure carrier gases contract in China – due to the rise in popularity of smartphones and other mobile devices.

The growth in the technology market is driving the requirement for advanced semiconductor components such as mobile application processors and wireless communication chips. China possesses more than 50% of the global assembly capacity for televisions and mobile devices and is the world’s largest electronics and smartphone market.

Air Liquide has just announced it has been awarded a major long-term contract in China by SMIC (Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation) to supply ultra-pure carrier gases to its latest cutting-edge fab in Beijing, which will manufacture advanced integrated circuits for consumer electronics and mobile devices for both international and Chinese markets.

SMIC Beijing Fab B2 will begin operating in early 2014 and will produce 300 millimeters wafers with 28 nanometers advanced technology.

To meet the needs of this customer, Air Liquide will invest in a large on-site generator producing ultra-high purity nitrogen. Nitrogen is an essential molecule that is used in the production processes, along with electronics specialty gases and precursors, to ensure that the stringent cleanliness requirement is met and that manufacturing equipment is safely operated. Air Liquide will also invest in the necessary bulk gases supply infrastructure. Air Liquide’s overall investment will amount to €18million.

Founded in 2000, SMIC is the largest foundry manufacturer in China and the fourth largest worldwide. Air Liquide and SMIC have established a long-term relationship that goes back to 2001. Air Liquide already supplies electronic specialty gases to SMIC’s large fabs in Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, and Shenzhen.

Tzu-Yin Chiu, CEO of the SMIC Group, said, “We are delighted to enter into this new long-term collaboration with Air Liquide in Beijing. Air Liquide has shown an excellent understanding of our needs and offered us competitive solutions. Thanks to its worldwide experience, technology, and excellence in operational management, we will benefit from a safe, reliable and energy efficient supply of industrial gases.”

Michael J. Graff, Air Liquide Group Senior Vice-President for the Americas and Executive Committee member overseeing Electronics, commented, “Building on the successful and long-term partnership with SMIC, we are very pleased to expand this relationship to supply SMIC in the strategic Beijing area. This new contract attests to our ability to supply electronics customers with products and services that meet the highest standards, and reaffirms the value and competitiveness of our offer and our position in the fast-growing mobility and smart devices revolution.”

The semiconductor chips at a glance

Semiconductor chips are manufactured using thin and spherical high purity silicon wafers as the base substrate. The largest wafers in production are 300-millimeters wide.

Billions of tiny digital on/off electrical switches or transistors that constitute each chip are formed on top of the wafer surface. The transistors can be as small as a few tens of nanometers or one to two thousand times thinner than hair. The larger the wafer and the smaller the transistor the better the chip performs and the lower the cost of production.