China's cleanrooms advance



ROLLING MEADOWS, Ill.—Horace Greeley's famous dictum about going west might be reversed today, at least as far as cleanrooms are concerned.

In the latest sign of China's growing cleanroom involvement, Shanghai YingZhan Business Service Co., Ltd. recently hosted a cleanroom educational seminar, held in conjunction with the Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology (IEST; It marked the first time that the Institute's training and associated certification were offered in the Asian country.

But according to Gordon Ely, seminar instructor and IEST technical vice president of contamination control, it was the Shanghai YingZhan Business Service that organized the event and contacted IEST. As he explains, "The Chinese are interested in improving their cleanroom practices."

Ely, who's affiliated with Nelson Laboratories, Inc. (Salt Lake City, Utah;, notes that the seminar added to the education and knowledge of those in the electronics, medical device, pharmaceutical, and other industries that use cleanrooms. The course also brought Chinese users information they'll need as the various industries progress into the world market.

And there are signs that movement may be accelerating. According to Strategic Marketing Associates (San Jose, Calif.; president George Burns, China will see capital expenditures on semiconductor fabs more than double in 2004 as compared to 2003.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC; Hsinchu, Taiwan), is among those pumping money and cleanrooms into China. TSMC spokesman Dan Holden says, "We are looking forward to producing wafers out of our 8-inch (200-mm) facility in Shanghai before the end of the year."

Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions (San Jose, Calif.;, a provider of total contamination and monitoring services, offers another indication that the Chinese cleanroom market is active. Company president Adam Giandomenico says Lighthouse is putting up three operations in China. One is in Shanghai, for the company's semiconductor customers. Another is in Suzhou, which will handle nearby disk drive, semiconductor and pharmaceutical cleanrooms. And in China's south, the Lighthouse location at Shenzhen will deal with the local data storage, flat panel, and semiconductor facilities.

While its semiconductor fabs are mostly 200-mm, that does not mean, notes Giandomenico, that the cleanrooms are not state-of-the-art. He points to smaller particle counters permanently installed in remote locations, and tool minienvironments for continuous monitoring.

The new Chinese cleanrooms, says Giandomenico, "have moved to the new technology...toward 0.2-µm monitoring, whereas previous generation factories were monitoring at 0.3-µm."