ALD centre of excellence to drive leading edge process technology

ALD centre of excellence to drive leading edge process technology

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

ASM International is setting up a centre to focus on Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) for next generation chip making at the Kumpula campus of the University of Helsinki

ALD is a key technology for depositing thin-film materials with precise control over thickness and composition. ALD and other atomic layer processes play an increasingly critical role in semiconductor technologies at 3nm and below and is a focus area for the European Chips Act.

Europe has been a key developer of the technology, which was originally developed in Finland in the early 1970s to achieve good-quality ZnS thin films for electroluminescent devices in flat panel displays.

The ALD Centre of Excellence (ALD CoE) is a significant boost to ASMI’s collaboration with the university, and ASMI will boost the funding as part of the five year deal for the centre.

“We were one of the first companies with the vision to recognize the potential of ALD technology for the semiconductor industry,” said ASMI in the Netherlands, which spun out lithography subsidiary ASML in 1988 and is a key equipment supplier to the semiconductor industry.

“In 1999, we acquired the Finnish company Microchemistry, forming ASM Microchemistry. Microchemistry had been researching ALD for catalyst and solar cell applications since 1987. At the same time, new ALD reactor concepts were being studied, with the very first 200 mm wafer processing equipment being designed and built in the late 1990s,” it said. “We invested a further 8 years of R&D efforts to design and produce the equipment and processes required to enable its reliable and efficient use by advanced semiconductor chip manufacturers.”

The ALD CoE marks the next stage of the development, with the expansion of the team at ASM Microchemistry which is based at Kumpula, to develop and adapt novel research methods for atomic layer processes. Through the collaboration with the university, the researchers will be able to use a recently installed ALD ultra-high vacuum surface analytical techniques cluster in the university’s chemistry department and the accelerator laboratories in the physics department to design new precursors, processes and materials.

“The ALD Centre of Excellence agreement significantly expands our nearly 20-year-long successful collaboration with the University of Helsinki. We’re very excited about this partnership aimed at breakthroughs around ALD that will enable future semiconductor technologies,” said Benjamin Loh, CEO of ASM International.

“The newly formed ALD CoE will further build out the strength of Europe in ALD technology as an essential part of the European semiconductor infrastructure, so helping to realize the strategic objectives of the European Chips Act,” he said.

”Our research group greatly appreciates the collaboration with ASMI, which takes us to the area where boundaries between basic and applied research disappear. The research questions we are addressing are fundamental by their nature, yet our results may find practical use in the future semiconductor devices,” said Professor Mikko Ritala, who leads the university’s HelsinkiALD group.

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