As semiconductor geometries get smaller, the need for process purity grows. Gore delivers cables, membranes and sealing solutions to keep this process pure, along with products for emerging EUV lithography equipment to help manufacturers prepare for the future.
How “micro” can a microchip get? Over the decades, as microchips in smartphones, laptops, LED screens and other electronics have gotten smaller, manufacturers in the technology industry have pushed the limits of smallness in semiconductors. Semiconductor line-widths have been squeezed from the micrometer to nanometer size range, while still delivering greater processing power and memory. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter — so small that it would take 100,000 nanometers lined up side-by-side to equal the diameter of a human hair.
This is the basis of Moore’s Law, which states that the number of transistors in a tightly packed circuit will double every two years. Gordon E. Moore made this bold claim in 1965, and for a very long time, it held true.
But can Moore’s Law keep going? Two issues may be slowing it down: the high cost of producing ever-smaller yet ever-more-powerful semiconductors, and the need for purity when manufacturing and processing them. These microscopic semiconductors could be contaminated by very small particles that could cause wafer defects; such defects could reduce yield and require costly maintenance time.
In short: As the size of semiconductor line-widths go down, production costs and the challenge of purity go up.
Gore is a longtime partner to technology companies navigating these challenges. We provide microfiltration media, cables and various sealing solutions that keep processes reliable and repeatable. Our PTFE-based materials are chemically inert and durable, delivering the unquestionable purity that semiconductor manufacturers require.
The industry depends on fluoropolymers, like PTFE, for cleanliness and chemical compatibility. As semiconductors shrink further, filter makers and other manufacturers will need help keeping pace with their rapidly evolving needs. Gore’s expertise and portfolio enable the production of faster, smaller and smarter microchips in a number of ways.
The smaller the semiconductor, the smaller the particles that need to be eliminated. Microfiltration is the obvious solution for eliminating contaminants — but think even smaller.
Membranes are the materials that do the filtering in wet etch, photolithography, chemical mechanical planarization (CMP) and other microfiltration processes. Whether hydrophobic or hydrophilic, membranes effectively separate the bad from the good to keep processes, and parts, pure.
A membrane’s performance can drastically affect how effective the filter is. Membranes that release extractables, are inconsistent from roll to roll, are affected by heat or chemicals, or let harmful particles through the filter will affect process purity. That is to say, they’ll damage the silicon wafers being processed and reduce overall yield.
GORE® Microfiltration Membranes are designed for the utmost in purity. As with all Gore products, they perform as promised every time. Beyond their fit for use, our membranes are designed for greater retention at a given flow rate. That means potentially higher yields without any compromises to quality.
If computer chips are the brains powering today’s pocket-sized machines, tiny transistors are the neurons. Maintaining process purity for parts so small isn’t easy. Nor should it be. Gore’s microfiltration membranes are effective because they need to be, delivering the assurances of purity and performance in the critical applications powering our modern world.
Looking Ahead: Cables for EUV Lithography
The next “big” thing for semiconductors is extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography, a process of carving more electric circuits into semiconductor wafers. In a lithography system, light transfers images onto silicon, similar to a camera that uses light to transfer images onto film. EUV lithography is considered the future of the computer chip; it produces a shorter wavelength that allows more electric circuits to be squeezed onto a chip.
Although the semiconductor industry still needs to iron out some challenges posed by this new method, Gore is taking the long-term view. In 2009, an optical systems manufacturer commissioned Gore as a long-term partner to provide the right cable assemblies for the ultra-high vacuum, low-pressure and ultra-clean environment that EUV lithography systems must operate in.
Because we invested early in developing cable connectors for the new EUV process we’re prepared to assist manufacturers as they adopt the new method. GORE® Cables reduce particulation and improve system performance and yield; non-shedding and chemically-inert versions are specially designed for cleanroom use. Our new line of cable assemblies for EUV lithography is marked by a low outgassing rate, which prevents them from emitting gases that could condense and contaminate a computer chip in an ultra-high vacuum environment. This quality in our cables makes Gore one of the few companies in the market who can clean and test our products for EUV lithography.
Even for manufacturers not yet ready to embrace EUV lithography, Gore provides a range of cables delivering high performance and purity, including high-flex, high data rate and microwave/RF cables for processing equipment, test and measurement, and integration.
A Portfolio of High-Performing Products
Due to semiconductors’ microscopic size, even the smallest hint of contamination can impair how a semiconductor performs.
Gore’s materials keep semiconductor processing pure. With their PTFE base, our materials are chemically inert, have extreme temperature ranges, and are durable in use. These materials are constructed to increase process yields and reduce downtime — and, potentially, costs.
Along with our microfiltration membranes, cables and cables assemblies, we provide:
- particle filters that ensure the consistent, reliable performance of disk drives within computers, gaming systems, servers, GPS and other consumer electronic devices.
- sealant solutions, like sheet gasketing, pipe gaskets, gasket tape and the GORE® Joint Sealant. Each is 100% ePTFE for the utmost in creep and cold flow resistance, so they’ll stay in place to keep processes contained.
For more than 35 years, Gore has been a key partner to global leaders in technological innovation, providing the Gore brand of purity to processes that require it. As the industry adapts to changes in technological trends — with increasingly small smartphones and wearables requiring the smallest of semiconductors — we, too, will innovate, providing vital products and support to technology companies looking to shrink their products while growing their profits.