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The NPL has recently been working on a major European Union collaboration to address a major manufacturing problem in the nanoelectronics industry. The project aims to reduce the problem of uncontrolled and expensive silicon wafer breakage in the integrated circuit manufacturing business. Microchips, or integrated circuits as they are also known, are produced on large thin "wafers" of silicon. Each wafer can measure up to a third of a metre across, but its actual thickness is less than a millimetre. During the manufacturing process unseen damage can occur in these wafers particularly due to high-temperature processing steps and by being bumped about by the special robots that carry them.
The EU collaboration is entitled "Investigation of Si wafer Damage in manufacturing processes" (SIDAM) and is funded by the European Commission. The SIDAM team has developed a revolutionary x-ray based monitoring technology which can see this damage without having to touch the wafers and, more importantly, can predict which wafers will break in the factory. This allows microchip manufacturers to avoid this problem by removing the wafers before they break, thus saving them many tens of millions of euro per annum in each factory. Prof. Patrick McNally, who leads the DCU team states: "our team in the Nanomaterials Processing Laboratory in DCU has been developing completely new techniques to allow companies such as Intel, IBM or Samsung look at three-dimensional images of this damage in a fashion very similar to CAT scans used in medical technology. The breakthrough technology has led to the development of a completely new analysis tool which is being manufactured by one of our partners in the project. This will allow companies, such as Intel based here in Ireland, to make major savings in the future".
Interested persons (particularly postgraduate students) are invited to attend the upcoming meeting of Irish Plasma and Beam Processing Group. Abstract dealine is the 1st October 2012 and further details can be found at the NCPST webpage.
NPL recently hosted the inaugural IEEE EDS/Photonics Society Dublin chapter speaker series. A group picture of the speakers and organisers can be viewed here!
NPL host the RINCE coffee morning, with the group members supplying home made food and cake for attendess to enjoy!
NPL Director Prof. Patrick McNally delivers invited talk to IEE Colloqium - 'Addressing Semiconductor Roadmap Challenges: New X-Ray Diffraction Imaging Techniques for Imaging Wafer Warpage in Systems on Chip'
Sonex Metrology wins EI Industrial Technologies Commercialisation Awadr. Full DCU press release can be found here!