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Why CeramTec’s Silicon Carbide Ceramic is a Crucial Component for Highly Advanced Chip Production

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

With photolithography systems for semiconductor manufacturing becoming ever more sophisticated, component suppliers need to be able to provide products of the highest quality to meet the current and future demands in chip production. Based on ongoing in-house R&D, CeramTec’s Rocar SiF plates made of high-performance SiSiC as a lightweight silicon carbide ceramic achieve an optimal balance of material properties which contribute to higher chip quality.

The German company, a global leader in the production of advanced technical ceramics, provides SiSiC (Silicon-Infiltrated Silicon Carbide) plates made of silicon carbide with a specific amount of metal silicon, which form the basis for electrostatic chucks. These wafer chucks are used in semiconductor machinery for the production of chips to accurately position the silicon wafer in the machine, employing an electrostatic field to clamp the wafer under vacuum conditions. Silicon carbide as the hardest ceramic material offers not only the stiffness and absolute flatness needed to enable this process but also excellent thermal conductivity as well as thermal shock, wear and corrosion resistance. The Rocar SiF product is the result of years of research and ongoing development, providing the company´s customers now with a material that is as homogeneous as possible, meaning that the conductive free silicon portion is as evenly spread across the microstructure as possible and at the same time retains optimum conductivity. This enables high-precision microstructuring of the SiSiC surface and, ultimately, more accurate handling of the silicon wafer which has a direct impact on chip quality and obtainable chip structure.

Litography as the use of light to print tiny patterns on silicon is a fundamental step in mass-producing computer chips and a new generation of lithography machines now operates at the cutting-edge of what is physically possible. As a small but crucial component, CeramTec’s SiSiC plates undergo a finishing process before being incorporated in this highly advanced EUV (extreme ultraviolet) lithography systems used by computer chip makers, which make silicon features down to a few nanometers in size on the memory chips and processors of tomorrow to meet the growing demand driven by 5G, IoT or autonomous driving applications. Given the expected growth of worldwide semiconductor manufacturing equipment market which is already manifested in the increasing number of EUV lithography systems being installed, semiconductor industry suppliers can therefore benefit from working with a high-quality base material to increase efficiency and productivity.