Sunday, June 16, 2024

Boosting the Future: Increased ALD Use Paves the Way for Advanced GAAFET Technology

The Biden administration is considering a complete ban on the export of chips utilizing Gate All-Around Field Effect Transistor (GAAFET) technology to China, Bloomberg reports (LINK). The rationale behind this potential ban is the concern that such advanced transistors could be leveraged for military applications and artificial intelligence (AI) advancements by China. This move follows previous restrictions from 2022, when the U.S. barred its Electronic Design and Automation (EDA) companies from selling tools necessary for GAAFET development to China. In addition, advanced chip exports from companies like Nvidia were restricted, with these measures being progressively tightened and expanded over time.

Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2024. The anniversary marks 50 years since Dr. Tuomo Suntola and his colleagues filed the first patent for Atomic Layer Epitaxy in 1974, which laid the foundation for ALD technology. This milestone will be celebrated at various events, including the ALD 2024 conference, where Dr. Suntola is expected to deliver the opening remarks .

ASM International, a leader in Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD), plays a crucial role in enabling Gate-All-Around Field Effect Transistors (GAAFETs) and continued semiconductor scaling. ALD's precision in depositing ultra-thin, uniform films is essential for creating the high-performance, low-power structures required by GAAFETs. This technology, along with other advanced processes such as epitaxy and selective etching, supports the intricate fabrication steps needed for these next-generation transistors.

The production of GAAFETs requires a significant increase in the use of ALD technology - maybe up to 40% more according to ASM. ALD is essential for creating the ultra-thin, uniform films needed for GAAFET structures, ensuring high-quality, defect-free layers that are critical for advanced transistor performance. This technology enables precise control over the deposition process, crucial for developing high-k dielectrics and other materials that enhance GAAFET performance and efficiency. As the semiconductor industry now transitions from FinFET to GAAFET technology, leveraging ALD's capabilities is vital for maintaining and advancing Moore's Law, enabling more powerful and energy-efficient chips using existing manufacturing infrastructure

Applied Materials has outlined next-generation tools essential for producing 3nm and GAA transistors, such as those in Samsung's upcoming 3GAE and 3GAP technologies. These advanced tools address the complexities of GAA transistor manufacturing, including precise lithography, epitaxy, and selective materials removal. Applied's Producer Selectra Selective Etch IMS tool is pivotal in defining channel width without damaging surrounding materials, while the Centura Prime Epi tool ensures clean deposition of Si and SiGe nanosheets. Additionally, their Integrated Materials Solution (IMS) systems integrate atomic layer deposition (ALD), thermal steps, and plasma treatments to optimize the gate oxide stack, enhancing performance and reducing gate leakage. These innovations are crucial as they enable higher performance, lower power consumption, and greater transistor density, aligning with the industry's move from FinFET to GAA technology.

Today GAA transistors are currently in mass production only by Samsung, which offered the technology to customers with its 3-nanometer process in 2022. Intel is set to follow, producing GAAFET on its 2-nanometer process expected to be available in its products later this year. TSMC, the market leader, plans to introduce GAAFET with its own 2 nm process in 2025. The GAAFET technology itself is not inherently suited for AI or military applications but represents an evolution in transistor design, enabling denser packing of transistors as lithography equipment and manufacturing processes advance. This technology shift, akin to transitioning to a new node, typically results in either reduced power consumption or improved performance by 15-25%.

The improvements facilitated by GAAFET could significantly enhance the capabilities available to China. SMIC, China's largest contract manufacturer, currently produces chips on a 7 nm process and is believed to be capable of reaching at least 5 nanometers with existing tools. The combination of this process with GAAFET could theoretically prevent China from falling too far behind Western advancements. However, China has been effectively shut out from developing GAAFET using tools from leading EDA companies, all of which are American. Additionally, the Dutch company ASML, dominant in the lithography equipment market, has not sold its EUV (Extreme Ultraviolet) machines to China and faced further restrictions in 2023 on selling its advanced DUV (Deep Ultraviolet) equipment. In April 2024, ASML took another step in the tech war against China by announcing that it would no longer service existing equipment in China, potentially crippling the country's semiconductor manufacturing capabilities. The specific details of the new export bans are still unclear, but Reuters notes that initial proposals have faced criticism from the U.S. semiconductor industry for being overly broad and extensive.

Source: USA överväger ytterligare GAAFET-sanktioner mot Kina – Semi14, www.ASM.comApplied Materials Outlines Next-Gen Tools for 3nm and GAA Transistor Era ( layer deposition, next-gen transistors, and ASM (

ASML Unveils Hyper-NA EUV: Pioneering New Frontiers in Chip Innovation and Efficiency

ASML, the leader in lithography technology for semiconductor manufacturing, has launched its latest breakthrough: the Hyper-NA EUV tool and Intel being the first customer getting its first machine earlier this year. This leading-edge technology, which boosts the numerical aperture (NA) from 0.55 to 0.75, is poised to revolutionize chip design by enabling unprecedented levels of transistor density. Scheduled for introduction around 2030, Hyper-NA promises to extend the capabilities of chipmakers far beyond current limits, opening up new possibilities for intricate and powerful chip designs.

The presentation announcing ASML's Hyper-NA EUV technology was delivered by the company's former president, Martin van den Brink, at imec's ITF World event in Antwerp. 

Reduction in Double Patterning Complexity: Hyper-NA EUV technology simplifies the lithography process by reducing the need for double patterning, i.e., like Litho-Etch-Litho-Etch (LELE) etc., a method that involves aligning two masks perfectly to create intricate chip designs. By providing higher resolution and precision, Hyper-NA EUV minimizes the challenges and costs associated with double patterning, streamlining production and enhancing overall efficiency for chipmakers. However, there are a myriad of multi-patterning technologies deployed out there and SMIC, the main Chinese foundry, is reportedly using sextuple-patterning for its 5 nm technology.

Hyper-NA EUV technology is designed to significantly increase the productivity of semiconductor manufacturing, enabling the processing of 400 to 500 wafers per hour. This improvement will help chipmakers meet the growing demand for high-performance chips more efficiently, reducing production time and costs while maintaining high precision and quality.

The adoption of Hyper-NA EUV presents a myriad of opportunities for the semiconductor industry. As Intel has already installed the first High-NA systems, showcasing the potential of these advanced tools to enhance processor performance. As other industry leaders like TSMC, Samsung, Micron, and SK Hynix explore the adoption of High-NA and eventually Hyper-NA, the competitive landscape is set for a dynamic transformation. Innovations such as advanced polarizers to overcome light polarization issues and improvements in resist materials and etch selectivity will enable more precise and efficient chip manufacturing.

ASML’s Hyper-NA EUV technology is not just a short-term solution but part of a long-term roadmap that will sustain chip innovation for the next decade and beyond. Collaborative research and development efforts, including Imec’s simulations and Zeiss’s lens designs, highlight the cooperative spirit driving this technological advancement. As chip designers like Nvidia, Apple, and AMD leverage these tools at leading foundries such as TSMC, the future of chip design looks brighter than ever, promising enhanced productivity, technological leadership, and sustained growth. Hyper-NA EUV is set to redefine what is possible in the world of semiconductors, driving the industry towards new heights of efficiency and performance.

Monday, June 10, 2024

Air Liquide signed major contract to support the semiconductor industry in the U.S. with an investment of more than 250 million dollars

Air Liquide has announced a significant investment exceeding $250 million to construct a new industrial gas production facility in Idaho, USA. This plant will supply ultra-pure nitrogen and other essential gases to Micron Technology, Inc., a leading semiconductor manufacturer, as well as other local customers. The facility, part of a long-term contract, will play a crucial role in the production of memory chips and is expected to be operational by the end of 2025. This project will generate hundreds of jobs during both the construction and operational phases and is designed to be highly efficient, incorporating digital technologies and modularization to ensure reliability and quick delivery.

Matthieu Giard, Chief Executive Officer of Americas for the Air Liquide Group, said

We are pleased to further strengthen our 30 year-long partnership with Micron Technology. Our partner’s trust in Air Liquide reinforces our position in the Electronics industry as a technology leader with strong innovation capabilities. This investment will support the production of leading-edge memory chips, notably to meet the growing demand for computing capacities required by Artificial Intelligence. This contract illustrates our strategy to further accompany our customers in their development, including in the U.S. The Electronics activity is a strong driver of our 2025 strategic plan ADVANCE, which closely links financial and extra-financial performances.

This initiative exemplifies Air Liquide's commitment to technological advancement and environmental sustainability in the semiconductor sector. The new production unit will be 5% more power-efficient than previous generations and aims to use 100% renewable energy within five years. Matthieu Giard, CEO of Americas for Air Liquide, highlighted the long-standing partnership with Micron Technology and the strategic importance of this investment in supporting the demand for advanced memory chips, driven by the rise of artificial intelligence. Scott Gatzemeier of Micron Technology emphasized the project’s role in enhancing the U.S. semiconductor supply chain, driving significant growth in domestic material sourcing, and bolstering the semiconductor ecosystem across the country.

Source: Air Liquide signed major contract to support the semiconductor industry in the U.S. with an investment of more than 250 million dollars | Air Liquide

NCD Co., Ltd. has supplied ALD equipment for manufacturing perovskite solar cells to Korea Electric Power Corporation

NCD Co., Ltd. has recently supplied KEPCO Research Institute (KEPRI) with its dedicated ALD equipment (Lucida GS-P360) for perovskite solar cells (PSCs). This is equipment for depositing SnO2 thin films, which plays a role as the electron transport layer (ETL) in high-efficiency PSCs. The Lucida GS-P360 enhances high productivity as it can simultaneously processes ALD on multiple glass substrates, making it suitable for mass production.

SnO2 layers deposited via the ALD process allows for the uniform thin film deposition on the nanometer scale, offering higher light transmittance in the visible spectrum compared to TiO2. Additionally, SnO2 exhibits high conductivity and excellent stability. PSCs are gaining great attention as next-generation solar cells due to their simplicity in fabrication, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. KEPRI has focused on PSC research and achieved an efficiency of 19.8% on 50x50 mm² glass substrates. They are targeting commercialization with 150x150 mm² glass substrate modules, achieving 18% efficiency, and are developing a 20 kW-class building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) system for demonstration, anticipating full-scale commercialization within a few years.

Although ALD processes generally offer advantages such as low-temperature processing, superior thin film quality, process reliability, and scalability, the slow deposition rate can significantly increase production costs. However, NCD's ALD equipment for PSCs employs NCD's proprietary high-productivity ALD technology, enabling the processing of SnO2 on 180x180 mm² glass substrates, achieving an outstanding throughput of over 100 glasses per hour, even with the use of high-temperature Sn precursors that are typically challenging to handle.

Moreover, the supplied equipment is capable of handling large-area glass substrates (360x360 mm²), facilitating the manufacture of large-area BIPV PSCs. Specifically, for BIPV applications, because glass substrates thicker than 2 mm are used, the heating of the glass substrates for the ALD process can be time-consuming, limiting productivity. However, NCD's Lucida GS-P360, equipped with a proprietary heating system (patent pending), significantly reduces the time required for heating thick glass substrates, thereby ensuring high productivity.

NCD Co., Ltd. is expected to lead the high-productivity ALD technology and equipment market for PSC manufacturing and will continue to strive to grow as the world's leading ALD company.

< Lucida GS-P360 >

About NCD Co., Ltd:

NCD Co., Ltd. is a rapidly growing Korean company specializing in the development and manufacturing of ALD (Atomic Layer Deposition) and CVD (Chemical Vapor Deposition) equipment. Founded in 2010 and based in Daejeon, NCD focuses on providing advanced equipment, process development, coating services, and consulting for industries such as solar cells and OLED displays. Their innovative solutions aim to enhance efficiency and productivity in high-volume manufacturing.

For more information, visit their official website: NCD Tech.

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Jusung Engineering to Spin Off Semiconductor Business, Aiming for Market Revaluation and Strategic Growth

Jusung Engineering, a a first in Korea’s chipmaking equipment industry, has announced a significant restructuring aimed at enhancing its market valuation and navigating geopolitical risks. The company will spin off its highly successful semiconductor division into a new entity, marking a strategic move to unlock greater value for its shareholders and position itself for future growth.

Chairman Hwang Chul-ju highlighted the undervaluation of Jusung despite its proprietary technologies and leading market position. By creating a new entity for its semiconductor business, Jusung aims to elevate its market cap, which currently lags behind international competitors. The new semiconductor entity, tentatively named Jusung Engineering, will operate independently, allowing it to focus solely on expanding its technological capabilities and market presence.

The spin-off comes as Jusung's semiconductor division continues to excel with its advanced film deposition technologies, including selective semi-spheric silicon deposition and atomic layer deposition (ALD). These technologies are pivotal in the production of DRAM memory, NAND flash, and logic chips. As the demand for more integrated and smaller semiconductor devices grows, Jusung's ALD equipment is set to become increasingly crucial. Additionally, Jusung’s poly etchers, applicable across various semiconductor products, will play a significant role in diversifying the company’s offerings.

Despite achieving annual sales of 200 billion won ($146 million) and holding a market cap of 1.6 trillion won, Jusung's valuation remains significantly lower than its global peers. For instance, Dutch competitor ASM boasts a market cap of 47.3 trillion won. The spin-off is expected to narrow this gap, potentially achieving comparable sales records within five years. 

The decision also aims to mitigate risks from the ongoing US-China rivalry. By separating the semiconductor business, Jusung can better shield its other divisions, including display and solar panel equipment, from potential geopolitical fallout. This strategic insulation ensures that the company’s diverse operations remain resilient in the face of international tensions.

There is speculation about Hwang Eun-seok, the chairman’s son, taking the helm of the new semiconductor entity. With a doctorate in material science and experience at Samsung Semiconductors, Eun-seok is well-prepared for leadership, though Chairman Hwang emphasizes that any succession will be merit-based.

Jusung Engineering's spin-off of its semiconductor business represents a bold move to enhance its market valuation and strategically position itself for sustained growth. By creating a focused, independent entity, Jusung aims to capitalize on its technological strengths and navigate the complexities of the global semiconductor market more effectively. This restructuring is set to unlock new opportunities and reinforce Jusung's standing as a key player in the tech industry.

Sources: Jusung, Undervalued no more: Jusung Engineering to spin off chip business (