Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Alkane Resources reports that zirconium oxychloride (ZOC) prices are up 40% since January 2017

Alkane Resources reports that zirconium oxychloride (ZOC) prices up 40% since January 2017, which are the highest prices for 4-5 years.

ZOC pricing hike during 2017 (Alkane Resources, Twitter). Alkane is developing the Dubbo Project in NSW Australia, based on a large in-ground resource of zirconium, hafnium, niobium and rare earths, with operations scheduled for 2018.


In contrast to hafnium, zirconium is practically transparent to thermal neutrons, and it is commonly used for the metal components of nuclear reactors – especially the claddings of their nuclear fuel rods. This property makes it crucial to the expanding Chinese nuclear supply chain industry and is one of the main reasons for the current upward price trend.

Besides the use of ALD deposited ZrO2 in DRAM memory cell capacitors, the leading end users of zirconia (ZrO2) are for ceramics, foundry sand (for metal sandcasting, over 70% of all metal castings are produced via sand casting process), opacifiers in glass, and refractories for material must withstand extremely high temperatures (e.g. furnaces). Other end uses of zircon include abrasives, chemicals (predominantly, zirconium oxychloride octohydrate and zirconium basic sulfate as intermediate chemicals), metal alloys, and welding rod coatings.

ZOC is also the main source for the >50 tonnes global demand of hafnium of which about 2 tonnes is heading for the electronics and semiconductor industry. In semiconductor manufacturing hafnium is mainly employed as hafnium oxide in leading edge CMOC Logic for smartphones, laptops, tablets and servers. The ultra thin HfO2 (about 2 nm) is deposited by an ALD process using solid HfCl4 evaporated from an highly advanced solid source evaporator directly integrated next to the ALD process chamber. Since the introduction in 2007 by the Intel 45nm technology ASM International has totally dominated the high-k gate oxide market with its Pulsar 3000 ALD chambers.

Today about half of all hafnium metal manufactured is produced as a by-product of zirconium refinement and the end product of the separation is HfCl4. HfCl4 hcan be processed further by the so called Kroll process (reduction with Mg at 1100 °C) to extract metallic hafnium metal sponge according to:

HfCl4 + 2 Mg -->  2 MgCl2 + Hf 

Please contact TECHCET for more deeper insigths into the high-k metal precursr supply chain : 


(Solid State Technology) Precursors tracked by TECHCET for ALD/CVD of metal and high-k dielectric films on IC wafers include sources of aluminum, cobalt, hafnium, tantalum, titanium, tungsten, and zirconium. The total market for 2017 is now estimated to be US$435M, growing to US$638M in 2021. The top-2 suppliers are estimated to hold more than half of the total available market, with many players competing to supply the next enabling molecule. In particular, cobalt precursor demand is forecasted to reach >$80M in 2021 as foundries transition to below 14nm-node processing. As a potential conflict mineral, TECHCET tracks the sub-suppliers of cobalt.

“Metal precursors have had double-digit growth over an extended period of time, and we expect that to continue as the IC industry transitions to 10nm- and 7nm-node logic and 3D-NAND fabrication, with an average long term CAGR of 11% over 2013 to 2021,” says Dr. Jonas Sundqvist, lead author of the report, senior technology analyst with TECHCET and researcher with Fraunhofer IKTS. “Dielectric precursors growth today is clearly driven by dielectric PEALD deposition in multiple patterning, and by dielectric CVD in 3D-NAND.”

ALD & CVD High-k and Metal Critical Material Report (LINK)