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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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!
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
- 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.
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?
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!
Scientists report the size of a SARS-CoV-2 particle to be between 50-140 nm (https://www.news-medical.net/health/The-Size-of-SARS-CoV-2-Compared-to-Other-Things.aspx).
New microprocessor technology in devices from companies like Apple, Intel, and AMD produces chips with features as small as 5-10 nm. Shale rock that is mined for petroleum and natural gas contains a pore structure that can be as small as 5 nm. Wow- that’s very, very small!
Virologists, Electrical Engineers, Petroleum Engineers and Geologists; these are all very different professions. The one thing they have in common is the need to study things that are extremely small, nano-sized particles and materials. It’s hard to imagine because this is smaller than anything we can see with only our eyes. As a quick refresher, a nanometer (nm) is one-billionth of a meter. For reference a single human hair is ~50,000 nanometers in diameter. Scientists and engineers who need to study nano-sized particles or structures require a unique microscope called a Transmission Electron Microscope, or TEM for short.
Before we go any further, we should take a step back and discuss a few basics of microscopy. When we look through the eyepiece of a microscope, the magnified image we see is created by a series of lenses, each behaving like a magnifying glass. Various lenses give us higher and higher magnification. How well that magnified image can be resolved is dependent on the wavelength of the source used. In a standard light microscope, the wavelength of the light is about 500 nm. Thus, we can resolve objects that are about 250 nm or more apart. Anything smaller than this is too fuzzy, and the objects are blurred together. Secondly, in a light microscope the light reflects from the sample and is projected to our eyes or perhaps to a detector that generates a digital image.
To see smaller objects with clarity we need to use a source with a wavelength less than that of visible light. This is where electrons come in! The benefit of the electron source is that the wavelength of the electrons in the beam is only a few picometers, 1 picometer = 1000 nanometers. With the electron beam as the source of the object being viewed, it can be magnified even more and the details of a material or cell that are only 0.5 or 0.25 nanometer can be seen clearly.
As the name indicates, in a TEM the electrons are transmitted through the sample. Fundamentally, the TEM is analogous to a slide projector. In a slide projector, a light bulb is used as the “source.” The beam of light is collimated and passed through a photographic slide that is transparent. Then the beam is focused and projected onto a screen. If you grew up in the 1970s this is how you captured all your family memories and replayed them. In a TEM the electron source replaces the light bulb, the beam of electrons is focused with a series of lenses and passed through a very thin (100 nm or less) sample of the material being studied. The electrons change a little as they pass through the sample and thus when they are focused and projected onto a special screen, they produce a picture of the object. Below is an example of a TEM image of carbon nanotubes. In the image you can see the details of the sub-nanometer layers that make up multi-walled tubes!
Scientists at Cerium Laboratories use TEM daily to investigate a variety of samples for our customers. We evaluate the internal structures of microprocessors that operate your cell phone, laptop and car. We evaluate devices used for generating solar power. We look at geological formations to help scientists better understand where natural gas and oil deposits are located.
We analyze the finest details that are so minute but are so critical! We have a team with extensive experience in material characterization and research and development programs, including TEM but certainly not limited to it. If you’re ready to find out exactly what we can do for you, we want to hear from you!