Contamination is the single greatest risk in any fab. Clean rooms are controlled to eliminate all dust, since even a single speck can ruin a microcircuit. But contamination via impurities in the gas is also a potential source – hence the importance of Linde’s role in providing only the highest standard of electronic gases.
“The tiniest changes in gas composition can have serious repercussions," explains Jeff Chiou, "Take plasma etching, for instance: even 0.0001 percent – which corresponds to 1 part per million or ppm – impurity inhibits the effectiveness of the fluorinated gas used. Among other consequences, this can mean that the trenches isolating the individual circuits on the semiconductor material are not deep enough – rendering the chip useless.”
At the newly established lab, Linde’s experts and their industry partners are striving to eliminate such chemical variability. Alongside analytical processes, the focus is also on new formulations – so developing new gas products that enable the semiconductor industry to make further improvements to manufacturing or even take off in completely new directions.
Organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are a case in point here, promising even more vibrant images on ever-thinner screens. Key to this development are smaller, more powerful transistors consisting of new semiconducting materials such as metal oxides. Up to ten different gases are used in the production of a single transistor, with nitrous oxide, otherwise known as laughing gas, playing a particularly important role.
So, in years to come, when you’re cruising across town hands-free, deeply engrossed in a movie on your mobile device or even beaming on one of the car’s many screens while the system does all the driving, just think: thank goodness for those gases.