Challenges Facing the Semiconductor Industry
semiconductor industry is undergoing major changes as it moves to the
65-nm node and beyond. It is finding that simple scaling to smaller
feature sizes is no longer adequate for maintaining Moore's Law. In
fact, to manufacture chips at advanced technology nodes, the industry
must make revolutionary changes in the way it operates.
1: Comparative values for five categories of waste (2001–2004).
materials are emerging for fabricating advanced gate stacks in front-end
processing and low-k dielectric and barrier layers in interconnects.
To implement these materials, new processes such as atomic layer deposition
are being introduced into high-volume manufacturing. The steppers required
for extreme ultraviolet lithography applications will be quite different
from current lithography tools because they use mirrors instead of lenses,
operate under ultrahigh vacuum, and use wavelengths in the soft x-ray
the Environmental, Safety, and Health (ESH) area, the International
Sematech Manufacturing Initiative sees four major challenges:
Collecting sufficient ESH data for the timely assessment of new materials
Expanding ESH regulations.
Solving ergonomic issues resulting from tool complexity and larger wafer
Conserving resources, especially those related to tool energy use.
of Data. While worldwide concern over chemicals and their potential
health and environmental effects has accelerated over the last decade,
too little toxicity data are often available to enable researchers to
make adequate hazard assessments. The lack of data results from the
industry's short product lifetimes, chemical suppliers' intellectual
property issues, and the aggressive time-to-market requirements for
surviving in a competitive environment. In addition, many source chemicals
used to manufacture chips are unique to the IC industry, making it difficult
to justify costly toxicity testing based on limited sales.
Governments, especially in Europe, are increasingly developing regulations
to control the use of new and existing manufacturing chemicals. For
example, the European Union is proposing a chemical policy known as
REACH (registration, evaluation, and authorization of chemicals) to
provide a single regulatory framework applicable to both existing and
new substances. The proposed regulation, which is expected to go into
effect in 2006, is 1400 pages long and contains 137 articles and 17
more immediate challenge is the proposed European ban on the use of
perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), a critical component of photoresists
and antireflective coatings. However, because PFOS works better than
any other potential alternatives, its replacement in 248- and 193-nm
lithography applications is problematic. It is estimated that the development,
qualification, and implementation of new resists can take more than
15 years and cost $200 million per resist system.
Ergonomics and tool serviceability have emerged as chief concerns in
300-mm fabs because of the increased weight, complexity, and size of
many common tool components, such as chamber lids, robotics, and process
targets. Many components weigh more than the limit set by OSHA for one-person
handling, requiring the use of two or more technicians and/or hoists
and gantries. Additionally, as tool complexity has increased, common
tool elements have become more awkward or less accessible, making them
more difficult to service. These problems will likely escalate when
the industry shifts to the use of 450-mm wafers in 2012.
Resource conservation has and will continue to challenge the semiconductor
industry. While considerable progress has been made over the years to
reduce water and chemical consumption, energy conservation has been
more elusive. However, the industry is seriously considering designing
tools that can go into idle or sleep mode when not in use—a significant
opportunity for energy savings. Since more than 50% of a typical fab's
energy consumption results from vacuum pumps, pump suppliers have developed
more-energy-efficient and variable-speed pumps. That capability, together
with the pump's ability to go into idle mode, should make future fabs
much more energy efficient.
these ESH challenges are daunting, the ingenuity demonstrated by the
semiconductor industry over the years indicates that they will be addressed
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© 2007 Tom Cheyney
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