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R&D Focus

SuperSizer

Semiconductor industries require an in-line particle monitoring system to monitor the size and concentration of nanoparticles in solutions. However, conventional optical methods of monitoring particles in solutions can be problematic because interference from existing
micro- or nano-bubbles may lead to significant errors for determining size distributions and concentrations.

SuperSizer—In-Line Ultra-Fine Particle Sizing System

SuperSizer—In-Line Ultra-Fine Particle Sizing System

The SuperSizer technology, a high concentration in-line ultra-fine particle sizing system, offers many advantages in comparison to conventional particle monitoring systems using optical methods. First, the measurement range of the SuperSizer system can cover particle sizes from 5 nm to 1,000 nm, which is significantly better than currently available monitoring or inspection tools, whose measurement range can only reach 40 nm. Second, the SuperSizer system measures not only the sizes but also the size distribution and concentrations in the solutions. The detailed information measured by the SuperSizer system can enhance the quality and yield for the manufacturing process by reducing defects or scratches caused by nanoparticles in the solutions. Since the detectable particle size can be as small as 5 nm, it can be used to meet the demand of next generation technology node.

The SuperSizer system measures nanoparticles in the form of aerosols to avoid the bubbles issue in the solutions. Currently, the system has been successfully applied to monitor nanoparticles in solutions including slurries, chemicals, and pure waters for the semiconductor industry. The measurement procedures of this technology include dilution, size measurements, number counts, and data output. For example, the slurries or solutions will be diluted with DI water for a specified ratio first, followed by a homogeneous mixing process. In order to avoid mechanical agitation, which could result in particle aggregation, agglomeration or extra particles caused by abrasion, pressured gas is the driving force for solution transporting and mixing in the SuperSizer system.

The diluted and mixed solution is then converted into aerosol, and ready for airborne size measurement. The sizes of the nanoparticles in aerosol are measured using a differential mobility analyzer (DMA), and then the nanoparticles are counted using the condensation particle counter. DMA conducts particle size measurements based on force balance generated by air flow speeds in the axial direction and electric field in the radial direction of the column.

An atomizer module is used to convert particles in solutions to aerosol for airborne measurement.

An atomizer module is used to convert particles in solutions to aerosol for airborne measurement.

The output data of the SuperSizer system consists of the measured nanoparticle sizes, size distributions, and concentrations, as well as material information of abrasives and additives in the slurries. Users can edit the measurement sequences or recipes to monitor different chemicals or slurries under different conditions and schedules. Since the SuperSizer system is used for in-line nanoparticle size and distribution inspection or monitoring in semiconductor manufacturing, the measurement data is automatically categorized, analyzed and reported according to the client’s demands.

The SuperSizer system was a joint development effort with the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Ltd. (TSMC), and beta tests have been conducted at TSMC since 2014. With benefits such as a lower cost, easier upstream processing, and scalability, this technology brings an approximate net profit increase of US$6 million, if monitoring particle defects are improved for a 0.1 % increase in yield.