We were one of the first companies to have the vision to realize the potential of ALD technology for the semiconductor industry. In 1999, we acquired Microchemistry in Finland, forming ASM Microchemistry. Originally developed for use in the flat panel display industry, ALD had been researched for various applications for over 20 years. We dedicated a further eight years of R&D to turning it into a process that could be used reliably and efficiently by advanced semiconductor chip manufacturers.
What benefits does ALD bring? ALD allows us to deposit thin films atom-by-atom on silicon wafers, meaning we can deliver atomic-scale thickness control, high-quality deposition film properties and large area uniformity.
Such precision means we can use materials that could not be considered before and develop 3D structures, which are vital to the future of electronics. 3D technology provides a number of real benefits. These include saving space, while delivering chips with higher performance that consume less power.
ALD – A DRIVER OF FUTURE GROWTH
Using ALD, we are now able to deposit new materials several atoms thick on wafers at low temperatures, producing ultra-thin films of exceptional quality and uniformity. In PEALD, plasma is used to provide the reaction energy for the process, enabling lower temperatures for low thermal budget applications. Using ALD technology, we have been able to scale devices to smaller dimensions while reducing the power consumption of transistors, all of which helps the industry follow Moore’s Law and create smaller, more powerful semiconductors.
ALD is now our basic platform for the development of a wide range of new materials. Our research centers across the globe are working on ALD, and we are also conducting joint research projects with Europe’s largest independent research institute, imec. Taken together, this helps make ALD one of the principal drivers for future growth in microelectronics.
ALD IS NOW MAINSTREAM
ALD is now a mainstream technology used in volume manufacturing in the semiconductor industry. Our ALD technology is now being used to build ICs for a wide range of leading-edge products, including high-performance computers and smartphones. The results of ALD are everywhere in the world around us.
Plasma Enhanced ALD (PEALD) is another innovation in our long line of innovations. It widens the spectrum of materials that can be deposited. Its capability to deposit materials at temperatures as low as room temperature makes it possible to carry out processes on temperature-sensitive substrates like photoresist. This technology was introduced in DRAM and planar NAND flash manufacturing in the 3x nm node, for spacer-defined double patterning (SDDP), a technique that can reduce device dimensions, postponing the need for new lithography technologies. The technology continues to be used for DRAM and planar NAND flash manufacturing in the 2x nm node. This is just one example of how ALD continues to open up new possibilities for further process breakthroughs.
SUSTAINABLE GROWTH FOR THE NEXT DECADE
Yet this is just the beginning of ALD. While the fundamental technology has been around for 30 years, in the semiconductor manufacturing industry it is still relatively new. We expect it to be one of the principal drivers of growth in microelectronics over the coming decade. Looking ahead, we will continue to develop the huge potential of ALD in support of the semiconductor industry, enabling the industry to support the future demands of consumers.