EMPIR project on trace water highlighted in international press release

In a brightly lit and sterile semiconductor clean room rows of production booths spread out into the distance
An advanced semiconductor production cleanroom

A project looking at optical-based methods for humidity measurements has received far-reaching recognition

The project

In Europe, the market for industrial specialty gases is expected to exceed more than 20 billion euro a year by 2027. Ultra-high purity process gases, such as argon, nitrogen, and hydrogen, are used in many high-end technology applications, including semiconductor manufacturing.

However, for industry, water is the single largest contaminant of process gases where humidity measurements need to span more than nine orders of magnitude. In semiconductor manufacturing, even trace amounts of water contamination, at a few parts per billion (ppb), can result in circuit failures leading to wastage and decreased fabrication process yield.

Whilst mid-to-high range moisture measurements have been investigated and standards exist, current industrial methods are inaccurate in high pressure regimes and for several carrier gases, while existing optical methods rely on questioned extrapolations. EMPIR project Metrology for trace water in ultra-pure process gases (20IND06, PROMETH20), due to finish in 2024, is addressing this problem by developing high-performance, metrologically validated optical-based methods to detect water contamination in industrial gases, down to 5 ppb.

Press release

The International Association for the Properties of Water and Steam (IAPWS) is a non-profit association with one of its aims to provide internationally accepted formulations on the properties of light and heavy steam, water and selected aqueous solutions for scientific and industrial applications.

From November 27th to the 2nd of December 2022, the IAPWS held the Annual meeting of its executive committee and working groups and, following the end of this session, published a press release mentioning the PROMETH2O project. It describes how the project is developing the European metrological infrastructure and the measurement technologies to provide robust traceability to trace water measurements in ultra- high purity gases.

As a further indication of the importance of the work of this project, a representative of the PROMETH2O consortium has also been invited to join a new IAPWS Task Group. This group will be focused on reviewing the state of the art of the experimental work and developing a IAPWS Guideline and recommended values for the non-ideality correction of water-gas mixtures, also based on the results of the project,

In the long-term, the improved trace water measurements developed by PROMETH2O will support sustainability and waste reduction in a range of European strategic sectors, including the microelectronics industry.

Vito Fernicola (INRiM), who coordinated the PROMETH2O project, said,

“Most of the work carried out by the IAPWS Thermophysical Properties of Water and Steam (TPWS) group is somewhat complementary to the goals of PROMETHO. For that reason, having a project representative in the new IAPWS Task Group will both strengthen the mutual cooperation and enhance the impact of the project results on the scientific community at the international level.”  

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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