Firms pushing “PMOD” thin-film deposition

June 27, 2007 – InterCrossIP Management LLC says it has signed exclusive worldwide licensing agreements with Scottish specialty chemical manufacturer Ceimig Ltd. and Simon Fraser U. in Burnaby, British Columbia, to commercialize a thin-film deposition technology platform based on organometallic precursors.

The technology, “photochemical metal organic deposition” (PMOD), is used to deposit <200nm layers of metals (e.g., Au and Pt, metal oxides such as Al2O3, ZnO and TiO2, and mixed metal oxides such as BaTiO3, PZT and ITO), materials that can be directly patterned to linewidths below 5nm, according to the firm. The patent portfolio includes 14 issued and 7 pending US patents, as well as “numerous international counterparts.”

Deposition with PMOD has several benefits, the company noted in a statement — it’s a low-temperature process compatible with plastic substrates, it can pattern materials that cannot be etched, and it can be used to pattern metal lines using inkjet printing. PMOD has been used to fabricate high-quality dielectrics for very thin capacitors, depositing platinum and gold interconnect traces on substrates and with Pt as a transistor gate electrode, one-step patterning using direct-write ebeam or nanoimprint litho, and even repairing/enhancing electrostatic wafer chucks using a PMOD alumina, like a spin-on glass, the company explained.

PMOD was developed in the early 1990s independently at Simon Fraser and the U. of Dundee in Scotland, according to Michael Fury, founder and managing director at InterCrossIP, who explained how the technology works. Instead of using sputtering or CVD to deposit thin films, with PMOD one deposits an organometallic precursor on a substrate by any one of several deposition methods (for example: spin-on from liquid; dip or meniscus coating; vapor sublimation). The precursor is then converted to a metal or metal oxide using flood e-beam or UV. If exposing the material through a mask or using direct-write e-beam, Fury said, the process converts and patterns the film in one step, eliminating a number of steps in typical subtractive processing (blanket deposition, photoresist, exposure, develop, plasma etch, resist strip, and clean). Linewidths of 20nm have been demonstrated, and it is expected that linewidths <5nm are readily achievable with e-beam.

Fury managed the PMOD commercialization project at EKC Technology as VP of R&D and engineering starting in 2000, but the work was abandoned in 2004 after EKC’s acquisition by DuPont, which wanted to focus on its core business in semiconductor post-etch residue removers. The team in Scotland went on to form Ceimig Ltd. (“ceimig” means “chemical” in Gaelic), while the Simon Fraser group formed 4D Labs, with a dedicated multimillion-dollar facility on the campus for cross-disciplinary research in clean energy, advanced electronic, photonic and magnetic devices, and electronic bio-systems. Fury himself left EKC in late 2006 to form InterCrossIP, a San Francisco-based patent licensing and commercialization firm specializing in enabling materials for electronics, solar, MEMS, bioMEMS, and medical devices.


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