Pete’s Posts Blog

Monthly Archives: February 2014

Take the NCMS survey, but first figure out your nano position

I recommend taking the new survey out by the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) – — but you may first want to give some thought as to what is and what isn’t “nanotechnology.” That’s been something of a puzzle for the semiconductor and related industries over the last 10+ years. Some put semiconductor manufacturing, where matter is regularly manipulated on an atomic scale, squarely in the nanotechnology camp. Judging by Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) definitions, this is surely the case: “Nanotechnology is the creation, characterization and application of novel materials, devices and systems by control or restructuring of matter at dimensions of roughly 1 – 100 nanometers,” read the NNI definition, which includes nanomanufacturing as “the repeatable building of materials, structures, components, devices and systems designed with nanoscale features.”

Others say no, that’s just really small, it’s only nanotechnology when it takes advantage of the very unique properties of carbon nanotubes, silicon nanowires, quantum dots and other materials and structures which operate on the nanoscale.

Of course, compounding the confusion is the chase for nanotechnology-earmarked funding. Seven or eight years ago, it seems as if overnight everything that was branded semiconductor technology was relabeled as nanotechology. Although it seems to be the fervor has died down a bit, there’s clearly been been increased interest in materials such as CNTs and silicon nanowires in the semiconductor industry lately, particularly as the search for next generation “gate-all-around” transistors and post-CMOS switching technology heats up.

Perhaps there are ways for the U.S. government to help fund such efforts? Figuring that out is one of the goals of the survey.

Themed “Achieving Sustainable Nanotechnology Products,” the goal of the 2014 study is to document best practices in nano-product development and integration, and identify the common challenges organizations (academia, government labs, start-ups or established corporations) face in transitioning nano-scale advances from the laboratory into sustainable commercial applications. Due to the importance of the subject and massive public-private investments made in nanotechnology, NCMS is polling a broad cross-section of U.S. industry.

For this survey, “sustainable nanotechnology products” are defined as market-oriented products engineered by leveraging nano-scale features using materials and processes that minimize negative environmental impacts, conserve energy and resources, are safe for employees, end-users and consumers, and are economically sound.

You are urged to the brief survey if your organization’s activities in nanotechnology meet one of the following National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) definitions:

Nanotechnology is the creation, characterization and application of novel materials, devices and systems by control or restructuring of matter at dimensions of roughly 1 – 100 nanometers.

Nanomanufacturing is the repeatable building of materials, structures, components, devices and systems designed with nanoscale features.

The National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) has partnered with the National Science Foundation under the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) to launch this latest study of commercialization trends in nanotechnology and nanofabrication– previous studies were performed in 2003, 2006 and 2009.

In the 2009 study, aggregate results indicated that nearly 25% respondents’ organizations were already marketing products and instruments incorporating nanotechnology, and about 85% expected to commercialize products by 2013. Current applications were dominated by nanomaterials (e.g. nano-structured catalysts, carbon nanotubes, quantum dots, nanowires and dopants), complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS)-based electronics/semiconductor manufacturing processes, as well as other silicon-based energy conversion process industries that leverage similar large-scale fabrication equipment, thin-film coating processes, and closed-environment handling systems. Diverse nanotechnology-enabled, miniaturized biomedical and diagnostic devices, designer drugs and targeted therapies were also progressing, with early products such as nanoemulsions and viricides in advanced clinical trials.

Senior executives and researchers in stakeholder organizations are encouraged to share their experience and opinions about nanotechnology development in the U.S. Individual responses are kept confidential and the data will only be used in the aggregate. NCMS’ insightful reports are widely distributed to federal and state agencies, and elected representatives. All survey respondents will receive the insightful study results in advance of public release this summer. The 15-minute interactive survey may be accessed at until March 15, 2014.

Questions cover the stage of your commercial entity, the top 3 goals, the urgency of your commercialization efforts, overall capacity, infrastructure, prioritization challenges and what you view as the government’s role in the development of nanotechnologies.

Although the survey is directed at U.S.-based companies, all are welcome to participate.

No technical barriers seen for 450mm

Paul Farrar, general manager of the G450C consortium, said early work has demonstrated good results and that he sees no real barriers to implementing 450mm wafers from a technical standpoint. Speaking at the SEMI ISS meeting in January, Farrar showed impressive results from, etch, CVD, PVD, CMP, furnaces, electroplating, wet cleans and lithography processes and said the inspection/metrology tools were in place to measure results. “I don’t believe we will find fundamental technology limiters,” he said. “But we will have to keep working to find ways to maximize the efficiency.” Gaining such efficiencies are critical in order to meet the cost-saving goals of the program. “In the end, if this isn’t cheaper, no one is going to do it,” he said.

G450C is a consortium based at the CNSE campus in Albany, NY. It is financed by Intel, TSMC, Samsung, IBM, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, and New York State (CNSE). “Our job is to make it as easy as possible to innovation and be collaborative between the semiconductor makers and our key friends in the industry who enable the 450 work to be done in an economic way,” Farrar said.

At the end of 2013, G450C at 34 tools delivered to its 50,000ft2 fab in Albany, with another 7 tools in place at partner’s facilities. “The FOUPS are going, the overhead transport is well underway and some of the cleanroom is actually starting to look like a cleanroom,” Farrar said.

Farrar started with etch results, saying they were “starting to see some pretty good data – 3 sigma at about 2%. Yes, there’s still some work to get to the very edge of the wafer but relatively good progress and good jobs on gas delivery, etc.


He showed good results with both oxide and silicon nitride CVD, with close to 1.5mm edge exclusion. “It’s very representation data from early in the program,” Farrar said, noting that they were starting to pattern some of the more complex oxides.


He said the goal for PVD was to demonstrate better than 5% uniformity. “We know we have step coverage challenges for both the 10 and 7nm nodes. There’s tremendous work going on in the injection rings for gases, high density plasmas from multiple RF sources, but again some progress to me made but pretty good data for right out of the chute,” he said.


CMP results demonstrated repeatability less than 4%. “Very good job done by our suppliers,” Farrar said.


Farrar described data from furnaces as reasonably good. “We still need to do more characterization at what I call the micro level,” he said. “We see some hot spots on the edge, but we’re starting to work on those.”


Also “pretty good data” from electrochemical plating (ECP) of copper. “Well done here,” Farrar said. “The challenge is thermal and pattern loading effects, and gap fill.”


More of the same with wet cleans. “We’re starting to see some pretty good particle data. We’re cleaning wafers relatively well. We are seeing a few things like what I would call micro-metallic contamination that can grow some things so we’re still working on that. But from a particle removal standpoint, pretty good unit process work,” Farrar said.


Farrar acknowledged that lithography remained as one of the biggest challenges in the 450mm transition, but showed good results from directed self assembly across a 450mm wafer, and said the consortium had a very strong partnership with Nikon. “We’re working with them and we’ve seen some tremendous progress at their factory,” he said. “I’m fully confident that we’ll have capability by July to run patterned wafers. Immersion is going to be the workhorse. I think that’s a key enabler to get to 450mm.” He said the industry would have to see how the economics of EUV played out later in time. “I don’t think it’s going to be early in time,” he said.


Farrar seemed to draw hope from the earlier transition from 200mm to 300mm wafers, which started around 1998.  “By 2008, we were getting more than 2X the number of wafers per tool out compared to what was going in 2003. There was about a 70% improvement over 5 years,” he said.  

50 years ago: February 1964

In February of 1964, The Beatles landed for the first time at JFK in New Work and appeared on the Ed Sullivan show on February 9th. Their song “I want to hold your hand” – their 1st #1 hit – was still #1 after 7 weeks.  France & Great-Britain signed an accord over building the channel tunnel (construction for the “chunnel” began in 1988; it opened in 1992). The GI Joe toy (it is not a doll!) was introduced to the U.S. market.

In the electronics arena, it was a time when undersea telephone cables were being installed. In the February 1964 issue of Solid State Technology, Bell Laboratories described scientific advances that made possible a telephone cable system across the Atlantic Ocean. “In service beginning October 14, 1963, it transmits 128 simultaneous two-way telephone conversations,” an ad boasts. “In 1964, a cable of this kind will be laid between Hawaii and Japan, providing an extension across the Pacific Ocean of the telephone cable system now in service to Hawaii.”

004 (444x640)003

In the area of R&D, the development of two experimental NPN transistors for solid-state memory applications was reported by scientists of IBM. From the 1964 issue: “One of the transistors is a high voltage, high speed, medium power device; and the other is an ultra-fast, medium power, low voltage device. Both are silicon, epitaxial, planar, double-diffused types. The high voltage transistor is capable of switching 600 mA of current through a 90V swing in less than 25 ns.The low-voltage device can switch one ampere of current through a 25V swing in less than 8 ns.” The developments were described at the 1963 meeting of the IEEE Profession Group on Electron Devices in two papers, presented by P. P. Castrucci.  I believe that has to be the same Paul P. Castrucci who went on to start IBM’s 200mm line. I knew him personally and enjoyed his many stories, many of which are recounted in a discussion for the Computer History Museum.

Sadly, Paul passed away in June of last year.

Another interesting story in February 1964: How solid state electronics helped save space at the Voice of America (the official external broadcast institution of the U.S. federal government) installation in Bethany, Ohio. The Bethany Relay Station operated from 1944 to 1994. In 1962, high voltage stacks replaced the expensive 870A and 872A tubes.

The February Solid State Technology contained features on GaAs IR emitters, tunnel diode amplifiers, and an article focused on the ways to determine thermal resistance by flux plotting.

The Editorial examined the potential of thermionic energy converters. “The observation of the Edison effect, a phenomenon describing the collection of electrons emitted from a thermionic cathode, may be considered the starting conception of a family of energy converters which have no moving parts and which are being developed rapidly to achieve efficiency better than 10 percent and power outputs in the order of hundreds of watts.” Sam Marshall wrote that in 1964. 50 years later, the potential is still being explored,” wrote Sam Marshall.

Today, 50 years later, the potential of these devices is still being explored today. Stanford University and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, are working on applying thermionic energy convertors to applications in the field of Concentrating Solar Power (CSP).  The research team is creating a “new solid-state energy conversion technology based on microfabricated and photon-enhanced thermionic energy converters (PTECs). When used as a topping cycle in concentrated solar thermal electricity generation, PTECs will enable system efficiencies in excess of 50%.”

Microscale-enhanced thermionic emitters will enable high efficiency solar to electrical conversion by taking advantage of both heat and light.

The goals of this project are to:

    Design thermally isolated thermionic arrays and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS)-based wafer-stack technologies for PTEC fabrication that could exceed the SunShot Initiative targets for system conversion efficiency and cost

    Fabricate heterostructure semiconductor cathodes based on active-layer absorbers with the addition of band-engineered passivating layers to demonstrate PTECs with high quantum efficiency

    Demonstrate a next-generation thermionic energy converter device with a stand-alone laboratory efficiency >15% as a significant intermediate step toward a stand-alone unit of >30%.

“Through the use of modern design tools and wafer-scale microfabrication methods, this project is demonstrating for the first time a manufacturable approach to thermionic energy converter production that overcomes the space-charge-induced efficiency limitations of traditional thermionic devices. Also, through the novel application of appropriately designed and fabricated semiconductor heterostructure cathodes, the efficiency is being further improved by the photon-enhanced thermionic emission process,” a press release notes. Interesting, but I’d like to know why it’s taken 50 years to get there.

Check out a few of the ads from the issue: