June 16, 2006 – Balazs Analytical Services, a division of Air Liquide Electronics US, has introduced a new analytical technique that can provide trace analysis of metal concentrations in water and process chemicals down to parts-per-quadrillion (ppq) — 1ppq equivalent to one in a million billions.
Airborne molecular contamination presents a significant problem in semiconductor operations, particularly due to increasingly strict environmental requirements and sensitivities at sub-90nm semiconductor manufacturing. Even tiny trace amounts of impurities can fog lithography lenses, and contaminate resists and process chemicals.
The new service comes from a multiyear R&D effort to develop and incorporate ultraclean processes through sample lifetime. The technique spans initial sampling and sample preparation and continues through final blank and sample analysis, by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Point-of-use samples are taken by a self-cleaning sample device, and prepared and analyzed in duplicate to ensure quality control and demonstrate repeatability of the method. Each sample undergoes ICP-MS analysis with a proprietary system, with final indications of spike recoveries performed at ppq concentrations, resulting in the 90%-100% range.
Alex Tremblot, GM of Balazs, noted that the technique already has been used to quantify low-level Ni and Ca contamination, to help resolve yield issues. The analysis has been validated by “the leading semiconductor industry organization,” with production use by several industry customers.