Taiwan firm touts nontoxic reclamation process for LCD panels, Si wafers

June 18, 2008 – Startup Ben Ten Technology claims to have developed a nontoxic cleaning technology with application in reclaim processes for LCD substrate glass and silicon wafers.

The company, spun out of the National Taiwan U. into offices in the Hsinchu Science Park last year, originally developed a nontoxic electrolyte to remove indium tin oxide (ITO) layers of 140nm-150nm thickness from color-filter films, with results verified by the Industrial Technology Research Institute and major domestic LCD makers, according to chairman Ben Liu, profiled by the Taiwan Economic News. Reclaiming is a big cost-saver for LCD makers — Liu estimates 10% of the 11M 3M 3.5G-6G panels pumped out each month by Taiwan’s 11 LCD panelmakers are defective.

The technology improves on what Liu termed first- and second-generation technologies out of Japan that incorporate toxic chemicals (strong and weak, respectively). Liu told the paper that the technology’s inspiration came to him while working at Fujitsu’s optoelectronics unit. “I saw Japanese LCD-reclamation manufacturers moving their toxic processes offshore, mostly to Taiwan,” in an effort to project Japan’s ecology, he said.

Ben Ten’s patented technology uses a neutral liquid to completely remove substances from the surface of substrates, “even at the nano level,” but without using such toxic chemicals, he claims — as a demonstration Liu actually soaks his bare hand in the liquid for a few seconds. Defect-free ratios have surpassed 90%, he tells the paper, vs. ~30%-40% for chemical methods. The purity is lower than with chemical removal, “but that is OK,” he said, “because you can use refining approaches to filter out the impurities.”

Currently the company can handle 4G-5G LCDs (730cm × 920cm), and will retool later this year to add capabilities for 6G panels (1300cm × 1100cm). In the next year the company plans to add another plant in the Southern Taiwan Science Park (the hub of the nation’s LCD industry), and double capacity to 32,000 panels/month.

Having patented the technology for use in applications such as excimer lights and electrolytes, Ben Ten is expanding its use into cleaning defective solar silicon wafers and CDs, where metal coatings like chromium, palladium, platinum, and rhodium “are hard to remove even by aqua regia. But with our approach, they can be scrapped easily,” notes R&D project leader Eric Soong.

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