Solving Molecular Imperfections in Semiconductor Materials and Processes using FTIR

Solving Molecular Imperfections in Semiconductor Materials and Processes using FTIR

In the fast-paced world of semiconductor processing and production, yield is the name of the game. As more and more of our daily life relies on products that use semiconductor technology, industry demands continuous improvement in performance and yield to consistently deliver high-quality products to meet the ever-growing demand. To achieve this, we rely on a wide array of advanced techniques to develop and optimize semiconductor processes, one of which stands out is Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) analysis. In this blog post, I want to shed light on the invaluable role of FTIR analysis techniques in our industry and how they enable us to maintain the high standards of quality and reliability that our customers depend on.

Understanding FTIR Analysis:

FTIR analysis is a powerful analytical technique that has revolutionized our approach to semiconductor manufacturing. This method allows us to analyze the interaction between light and matter in an entirely unique way. Instead of relying on simple absorption or transmission measurements, FTIR utilizes the Fourier transform technique to convert the data into a spectral format. This spectral data holds a wealth of information about the composition, structure, and properties of materials at the molecular level. This level of granularity is essential in our line of work, where even the tiniest imperfections can result in product failure.

Quality Control and Defect Identification:

In semiconductor production, quality control is paramount. Even the smallest defects can lead to costly recalls, delays, and damage to our customer’s reputation. FTIR analysis helps us to identify defects and impurities at a level of detail that was previously impossible. By examining the unique spectral signatures of materials, we can pinpoint the exact causes of issues in their processes. Whether it’s the presence of contaminants, variations in chemical composition, or defects in thin films, FTIR allows us to trace the root of the problem so that our customers can swiftly take corrective action.

Process Optimization:

Continuous improvement is key to maintaining a competitive edge in our industry. At Cerium, we frequently use FTIR to identify unknown compounds and contaminants found in process tools. Using our NicPlan microscope accessory, we can examine microscopic particles and residues measuring >50um. Additionally, we can measure the interstitial oxygen content of silicon wafers, epitaxial film thicknesses, hydrogen and water in silicon oxide, silicon nitride and BPSG films as well as the degree of cure in polymer films by FTIR.  By providing real-time data on material properties, our FTIR analytical results empower our customers to optimize their processes. As their processes evolve, we can identify changes in spectral data through routine FTIR monitoring so that they can fine-tune their operations for improved efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and yield. This level of insight allows our customers to push the boundaries of what’s possible in semiconductor production while keeping a tight grip on quality control.

Material Characterization:

Semiconductor materials come in a wide variety of forms, and FTIR analysis is an invaluable tool for characterizing these materials. From analyzing crystal structures and chemical bonds to assessing the thickness of thin films, FTIR provides a comprehensive understanding of the materials used in semiconductor processing and production.  This knowledge is crucial for suppliers developing new materials that will give them a competitive edge while also ensuring new products and materials compatibility with their existing processes.

Environmental Impact:

In addition to its technical advantages, FTIR analysis supports our customer commitment to sustainability. By fine-tuning their processes and reducing waste through better quality control and process optimization, customers can minimize their environmental footprint. The data provided by FTIR analysis helps our customers make informed decisions that align with their environmental responsibility goals.

Conclusion:

I can confidently say that FTIR analysis techniques have become an indispensable part of our support for companies within the semiconductor industry, from material suppliers and OEMs to manufacturers. Their ability to provide a deeper understanding of materials and processes, their role in quality control and defect identification, their contribution to process optimization, and their support for sustainability all underscore the immense value FTIR analysis brings to our industry. In an ever-evolving field where precision is the cornerstone of success, FTIR analysis has become a beacon of innovation, empowering us to support our customers as they continually push the boundaries of what’s possible in semiconductor production. As an ISO 17025 accredited laboratory,  Cerium Laboratories assures our clients that test methods have been validated and their data has passed various quality checks.  For more information on how our FTIR analyses can help you with material characterization and manufacturing control, please contact us at support@ceriumlabs.com

Advanced TD-GC-MS Technique to Identify and Control Organic Contamination

Advanced TD-GC-MS Technique to Identify and Control Organic Contamination

Gas Chromatography Mass Spectroscopy (GC-MS) is a powerful analysis technique that is widely used in semiconductor manufacturing to ensure the quality of the materials used in the production process, identify impurities in these materials and provide possible sources for yield issues related to contamination.

In the semiconductor industry, even trace amounts of contaminants can significantly impact the performance and reliability of the final product and can lead to defective chips and reduced yields. By using GC-MS, manufacturers can detect and quantify these contaminants at the parts-per-billion (ppb) or parts-per-trillion (ppt) level, allowing them to take corrective action to ensure the purity of the materials used in production. Minimizing sources of contamination can reduce yield variation and help to ensure the reliability and performance of the final product.

 At Cerium Laboratories, we use multiple GC-MS tools, including Automated Thermal Desorption Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (ATD-GC-MS), which separates mixtures of organic compounds within the sample and determines the identity and concentration of each individual volatile organic component (VOC).   This technique is capable of detecting picogram quantities of material and is a powerful tool for identifying organic contaminants. This technique can be used on solid material, on liquids such as process chemicals, IPA, and ultrapure water (UPW) or airborne molecular contaminates (AMC) from the manufacturing environment.  These may be present as an adsorbed film on silicon wafers, as airborne vapors in the manufacturing environment, as dissolved components in UPW or process chemicals, or as vapors which outgas from plastics, coatings, garments, o-rings and similar materials.

Overall, GC-MS is an essential analysis technique for semiconductor manufacturing and yield management, as it helps manufacturers ensure the purity and quality of materials used in the production process.  By using GC-MS to identify and quantify contaminants, degradation products, and the chemical composition of materials, manufacturers can take corrective action to improve yield and reduce the number of defective chips produced.

Originally a subsidiary of a global semiconductor company, Cerium has extensive experience in material characterization and research and development programs.  Our background gives us the ability to accurately perform critical analysis and understand the process implications of the data and to provide that insight to our customers to minimize process variation, improve manufacturing yield and reduce time to market for new products.  As an ISO 17025 accredited laboratory,  Cerium Laboratories assures our clients that test methods have been validated and their data has passed various quality checks.  For more information how we can help you control organics in your manufacturing operation,  please contact us at support@ceriumlabs.com

Our Commitment to Client Relationships

Our Commitment to Client Relationships

Our commitment to client relationships

Samples In – Data Out – Repeat! 

This is how some analytical labs operate.  But at Cerium Labs our scientists aren’t just here to run your tests and send you a report.  We want to be part of your team!  Beyond giving you the results you need for success, our secondary goal is to help you and your engineers understand the results and implications of those results on your products and processes.  This is how we approach all the requests that come into Cerium Labs.  With this client-focused philosophy, we have built many very valuable relationships over the years. 

One such relationship is the one we have with Dr. Judy Runge. Dr. Runge is an expert in metallurgy with over 30 years of experience. We have worked with Dr. Runge on several projects related to the growth of aluminum oxide on aluminum also known as anodization. Anodizing the aluminum surface increases the strength of the surface. Many everyday household objects are made from aluminum that has been anodized to improve performance and wear.  

One such project of note was related to an issue where the anodized aluminum on a particular product was blistering. This was not esthetically pleasing for the manufacturer of the product. Beyond this, there was also a potential reliability concern in that the coating with the blisters would wear more quickly than one without blisters. Our team of scientists, along with Dr. Runge, investigated further into the underlying issue. We ran a variety of tests to look at the physical and chemical composition of the aluminum alloy, and the oxide layer. The results pointed to an interfacial reaction that came about due to the other elemental components of the aluminum alloy that was being used for the product. This work was very valuable to the metallurgical community. Dr. Runge and Cerium’s Dr. Tim Hossain presented a paper on it titled, “Interfacial Phenomena in 7000 Series Alloys and Their Impact on the Anodic Oxide”. The paper was presented at the Aluminum 2000 conference in Florence, Italy.

While most metallurgic testing is done at a macroscale, Cerium provided a microscale look at various anodized surfaces for Dr Runge. In order to do so, we used Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) to image the fine structure of the anodized aluminum. The oxide naturally grows in a honeycomb-like structure that is both intriguing and beautiful. Like a honeycomb, there is a network of walls with open spaces or pores in the middle. Below are two images that capture this honeycomb structure remarkably. The first is a cross-section at the interface of the aluminum film where the oxide is grown. In this image, you can see the columnar structure or pillars of aluminum oxide.

The dark areas are the aluminum oxide and the bright areas are the pores. The second image is called a plan-view image because the perspective is looking down at the surface of the aluminum oxide. In this image, you can see the pores (bright) and the walls (dark).  Dr. Runge was so impressed by Cerium Labs’ capability that she asked us to provide all the TEM images for her recent book, The Metallurgy of Anodizing Aluminum, Springer, 2018. We were happy to be a part of such amazing work!

Over the years we have helped people like Dr. Runge solve customer issues and contribute to the science and understanding of aluminum anodization. Cerium’s scientists want to be part of your team too. This is just one way we show our commitment to customer relationships! If you have a project or manufacturing problem, let us hear from you. As we work to solve your problem, our professional connection with you will flourish as well!

Celebrating 30 Years at Cerium Laboratories

Celebrating 30 Years at Cerium Laboratories

We just recently celebrated our 30th anniversary and we could not be more proud of how hard our team has worked and continues to work. You don’t make it three decades without being an industry leader, and we take pride in saying that’s what we are. We love what we do, and we’re proud of our final results. It’s been this way since the very beginning! 

Our Start in the 1990’s

It all began in the early 1990’s. In 1991, our lab was started as a support group to the Austin manufacturing facilities of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). The lab provided manufacturing and yield support for the three AMD semiconductor fabrication plants (fabs) in the Austin, TX area.  At that time of our original founding, AMD produced Eprom, Flash, Bi-Polar, and Logic microprocessors. Just a few years later, in 1994, AMD built their world class 200 mm fab in Austin. The lab was critical in supporting the startup and was also an integral part of the launch team for AMD’s K5® Processor. This exciting product was the first independently designed, socket-compatible x86 microprocessor. Over the next several years and throughout the 1990’s, the lab continued to support AMD’s manufacturing as they went on to open manufacturing facilities in Japan and Germany. 

The Early 2000’s

With the turn of the new millennium, exciting new changes came to our company. In 2004, we officially became Cerium Laboratories. With this change, we were now a wholly owned subsidiary of AMD, supporting many semiconductor OEMs. With the designation of being a brand new entity, Cerium Laboratories developed its own quality program. After rigorous planning, documenting, and validating, we became an ISO 17025 accredited testing lab. This is something which we still maintain today. 

Our Development From 2011 to Today

Even bigger changes happened in 2011. At that time, Cerium Laboratories spun off from AMD/Spansion and became a fully independent company. With over 20 years of hands-on involvement in the semiconductor industry, Cerium has gained valuable expertise in process engineering, quality control, and yield management.  

While we have greatly expanded over the last 30 years, we still hold onto the values and services that made us so successful in the first place. Many major semiconductor manufacturers use our services on a routine basis. We provide overflow support to these companies and serve as a backup when their internal labs are over capacity. They often need this support because they are unable to manage the volume of work or do not have the strict environmental controls necessary for ultra-pure testing. It’s a service we’re happy to provide to such an important industry! 

We haven’t forgotten about the little guy, just like we used to be! This is why in addition to large OEMs, we regularly provide services to manufacturing startups that do not have the analytical equipment in-house to fully characterize their products. Analytical tools and facilities are expensive to operate and maintain, something we know very well. For these fresh new companies, it is much more cost effective to outsource their lab needs to our team of experts. We have the expertise as well as the machinery needed to get the job done right! 

The Future of Cerium Laboratories 

Right now, we have a global customer base and service customers in a broad range of industries. We provide chemical analysis to many semi-chemical and raw material manufacturers. In addition, we have customers in: 

  • Alternative energy (lithium-ion battery production, fuel cell and solar technology)
  • III-V manufacturers
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Medical devices

Where are we going next? As we continue to grow our partnerships, we will be adding support for environmental testing and the oil and gas industry.  We’re excited to see where the next several years take us!

Contact Cerium Labs to be Apart of What we’re Doing

Are you ready to be a part of the future success at Cerium Laboratories? We want to hear from you! Contact us and let’s begin to discuss which of our services will meet your needs.

Cerium’s Team is part of your team!

Cerium’s Team is part of your team!

When we say our team is part of your team, we mean it! The scientists who are part of Cerium’s team are always looking for ways to help our clients.  Whether we are solving a specific problem, assisting in process improvements, or verifying the quality of a product, Cerium’s team of scientists get in the trenches with our clients. We have many happy customers who can attest to this! 

We have been making our clients happy for many years. Cerium’s team of scientists meet with our client to learn more about the process and the failure. The failure was described as a “blue stain” that developed on the surface of a package. We had a good working hypothesis to explain the stain, but after some analysis we were surprised to learn that it wasn’t what we thought. The analysis performed by Cerium’s team was critical in proving our client’s product wasn’t contaminating the packages. Additionally, we learned valuable information that led the client and their team to a better understanding of the root cause of the stain. 

We have so many more stories like this! Another client has worked with Cerium’s team many times in the last several years. Dr. Judy Runge is an expert in metallurgy with over 30 years of experience.  We have worked with Dr. Runge on several projects around the growth of aluminum oxide on aluminum, also known as “anodizing.” Anodizing the aluminum surface increases the strength of the surface. You would be surprised how many of your everyday objects are made from aluminum that has been anodized to improve performance and wear! While most metallurgic testing is done at a macroscale, Cerium provided a microscale view of various anodized surfaces using Transmission Electron Microscopy.  With the TEM images, Dr. Runge and Cerium’s scientists, Dr. Tim Hossain, and Dr. James Conner, were able to determine what was causing bubbles or blistering in the finish of one client’s anodized aluminum product.

While we like the sleuth work, several of our customers depend on Cerium Laboratories to provide a third party, independent quality check on their materials. Several clients produce chemicals that are sold to manufacturing facilities around the world. We verify that the material meets their specification before it is shipped. This work, while more routine than the previous examples, requires verified, repeatable analyses that can be done quickly. Our customers know they can depend on us to provide the highest quality and accurate results because Cerium Laboratories is an accredited ISO 17025 laboratory. ISO 17025 accreditation is a rigorous and continuous process that verifies all our processes and test methods. 

Whether we are helping solve a specific issue or checking material before it is sold, Cerium’s scientists are always engaged with our customers. We want to be part of your team! Where can we help? 

The History of Cerium Laboratories

The History of Cerium Laboratories

We’re so proud to announce that at Cerium Laboratories, we have hit 30 years and we’re looking forward to many more!

Who we are

Cerium Laboratories is a global, high growth, analytical services company that provides the highest quality, the quickest response time, and the best value to a diversified customer base. We have made a name for ourselves as leaders in the industry because we’ve been doing it now for three full decades.

How it all Began

Our lab was started in the 1990’s as a support group to Advanced Micro Devices’ Austin manufacturing facilities. Our lab provided manufacturing and yield support for the three Advanced Micro Devices’ semiconductor fabrication plants in Austin, TX.  At that time Advanced Micro Devices was producing Eprom, Flash, Bi-Polar, and Logic microprocessors. When Advanced Micro Devices built their world class 200 mm semiconductor fabrication plant in Austin in 1994, our lab was critical in supporting the startup. Our lab was also an integral part of the launch team for Advanced Micro Devices’ K5® Processor. This exciting development was the first independently designed, socket-compatible x86 microprocessor.  Over the next several years, the lab continued to support Advanced Micro Devices manufacturing and the startup of new semiconductor fabrication plants in Germany and Japan.

Big changes happened in 2004. This was the year we officially became Cerium Laboratories, a wholly owned subsidiary of Advanced Micro Devices supporting many semiconductor OEMs in addition to Advanced Micro Devices and the newly formed Spansion, LLC. Spansion (now Cypress) manufactured flash memory in the Austin semiconductor fabrication plant. As an exciting, brand new entity, Cerium Laboratories developed its own quality program. Through rigorous planning, documenting, and validating, we became an ISO 17025 accredited testing lab. This is an accreditation in which we still maintain today. 

Further changes took place in 2011. This was the year in which Cerium Laboratories spun off from Spansion, LLC and became a fully independent company. At this point we had over 20 years of “hands-on” involvement in the semiconductor industry. During that time, Cerium had gained valuable expertise in process engineering, quality control, and yield management.  

Our Customers and Services

Many major semiconductor OEMs use Cerium Labs’ services on a routine basis. These large companies may have internal capability but are unable to manage the volume of work or do not have the strict environmental controls necessary for ultra-pure testing. That is where we come in! Cerium Laboratories provides overflow support to these companies and serves as a backup when their internal labs are over capacity. Additionally, with our experience we can provide services to manufacturing startups that do not have the analytical equipment in-house to fully characterize their products. Analytical tools and facilities are expensive to operate and maintain, so it is more cost effective for small companies to outsource their lab needs to Cerium.  

A lot has changed since the early days back in 1991. We now have a global customer base and are able to service customers in a broad range of industries.  We provide chemical analysis to many semi-chemical and raw material manufacturers. In addition, we have customers in alternative energy, Lithium-ion battery production, fuel cell and solar technology. Plus, we regularly work with III-V materials, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices. As we continue to grow our partnerships, we will be adding support for environmental testing and the oil and gas industry. This is something we are thrilled to see come to fruition and believe it is the next step in our journey.

Cheers to the Future!

Cerium’s team of scientists have over 30 years of experience working with a variety of industries. Are you ready to be a part of what we offer? We will work collaboratively with you, just like our other clients, to help you understand the data and its possible implications for your materials or processes. The only thing left to do now is contact us and speak to us directly about what we can do for you!