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

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!