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6/12/2014 4:41:28 PM

Times Union: The Buzz: Business News: NanoCollege taking the “notch” out of chip wafers

Times Union

Researchers at the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering are taking the “notch” out of the silicon wafers used to make microchips.

The Global 450 Consortium, the group that includes the NanoCollege as well as five of the world’s leading computer chip companies, is building a pilot microchip manufacturing line that uses 450mm wafers (about 18 inches across) instead of today’s smaller 300mm wafers (about 12 inches across).

The five-year, $1 billion project involves ordering new wafer-processing machines, or “tools,” that can handle the larger wafers, from suppliers and setting them up inside NanoFabX, a small-scale chip factory designed to test the 450mm process.

One of the changes that the industry has wanted to make when it goes to 450mm manufacturing is to figure out how to get rid of a “notch” that exists on each 300mm wafer. The notch is used to orient the wafer during chip manufacturing, so that each wafer is facing the right way during the process, which involves hundreds of steps in dozens of machines.

Before the notch was created, the industry made a flat edge on wafers to orient them. The notch was used when the industry went to 200mm wafers because it saved much-needed silicon surface area.

Now the notch is being replaced with the move to 450mm so that the wafers can be more uniform around all of the edges. The notch can create problems with wafer processing, including with the “films” used to pattern circuitry, so getting rid of it could cut down on defects.

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