EMPIR project on contamination in semiconductor production features in journal

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Accurately measuring Airborne Molecular Contamination in the semiconductor production process

The project

European semiconductor sales amount to approximately €32 billion per year, representing 10 % of the global share. Progress is driven by the ability to operate at increasingly smaller scales and with greater complexity. A key challenge facing the industry is production loss due to Airborne Molecular Contamination (AMC) in the form of vapours and aerosols, which can corrode metal surfaces and form contamination layers during microscale manufacturing processes. Existing monitoring instrumentation is often inadequate, and since 1997 there have been 24 major production losses due to AMC, each with a value of up to €80 million.

Completed EMPIR project Metrology for Airborne Molecular Contaminants II (17IND09, MetAMCII) has developed and metrologically validated spectroscopic techniques and new reference materials and reference instrumentation (i.e. optical gas standards, OGS) to quantify priority AMCs (HCl and NH3) at lower concentrations (<1 nmol/mol) and faster rates (<1 minute), than was previously possible. It also investigated typical AMC monitoring scenarios and improved system robustness, transportability, calibration and traceability. By developing techniques for timely and reliable AMC detection, the resulting devices from this project will enable semiconductor manufacturers to make corrective actions before production yields are affected.

Journal article

The work of this EMPIR project was featured in an article written by PTB entitled AMC monitoring in fabs with spectroscopic methods  published in the journal Cleanroom Technology.

From the introduction to the article, we read that:

Airborne molecular contaminants clearly affect semiconductor yield and can’t be completely removed by modern filters in cleanroom fabs. Researchers from the PTB department on gas analysis participating in the €1.9 million MetAMCII project say it is aiming to address the increasing need for measurement capabilities from the low parts per billion (ppb) to the parts per trillion (ppt) in real time with lower uncertainties.

The impact of this project will not be limited to the semiconductor industry; within 5 to 10 years, other industries that will benefit will include aerospace, pharmaceuticals, medical devices (such as breath analysis for health monitoring), food, indoor and outdoor air quality monitoring, healthcare and energy efficiency.

Project Coordinator Geoffrey Barwood from the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) said:

"MetAMCII brought together research groups from European national metrology institutes (NMIs) to begin the process of intercomparing different techniques for standards preparation and spectroscopy-based concentration measurement of trace airborne contaminants, specifically targeting HCl. NPLs scientific input involved both laser spectroscopy and our gas metrology expertise. In addition to laser spectroscopic techniques under development, we involved two industrials to bring some of our expertise to market. Being highly reactive, HCl is a difficult contaminant to handle, particularly when preparing accurate reference standards and making measurements at the ultra-low amount fractions specified. This project has provided a valuable experience in working with HCl at the trace level and our results will help steer an upcoming international intercomparison."

This EMPIR project is co-funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the EMPIR Participating States.

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