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 $30 Million in Savings: SK Hynix Makes Industry’s First Neon Gas Recycling Technology

By reclaiming and recycling neon gas used in semiconductor manufacturing processes, SK Hynix not only minimizes environmental footprint but also achieves substantial cost savings.
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In a groundbreaking collaboration, SK Hynix Inc., one of the world’s leading memory chip manufacturers, and its South Korean partner TEMC Co., have achieved a significant milestone in semiconductor manufacturing. Their joint effort has resulted in the development of the industry’s first neon gas recycling technology.

This innovative solution not only promises substantial cost savings but also marks a significant step towards sustainability in chip fabrication.

Industry First: They collaborated with TEMC, a local company, to develop the world’s first ever neon gas recycling technology for the semiconductor industry .

Cost Reduction: By implementing this tech, SK Hynix expects to bring down their annual neon gas purchasing costs by a significant amount, estimated to be around $30 million.

Environmental Benefits: Neon recycling not only saves money but also helps the environment. SK Hynix expects to see a reduction of approximately 12,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions every year .

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Neon Gas in Chip Manufacturing:

Neon gas plays a crucial role in semiconductor manufacturing, particularly in the lithography process.

It is utilized in excimer lasers or ultraviolet lasers, essential for carving intricate patterns onto silicon wafers.

However, the reliance on imported neon gas has posed challenges for chipmakers, especially amidst geopolitical tensions and supply chain disruptions.

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The Need for Recycling Technology:

With the global supply of neon gas affected by factors such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict, semiconductor manufacturers have sought alternative solutions to mitigate supply chain risks and reduce dependency on imports.

There are two main reasons why neon gas recycling technology is important:

Stable Supply and Cost Reduction: Neon is crucial for chip manufacturing, but a large portion of it comes from a few countries like Ukraine . This creates a situation where disruptions like the Russia-Ukraine conflict can cause price spikes and supply chain issues. Recycling allows chipmakers to reuse the neon they already have, reducing their reliance on external suppliers and potentially stabilizing costs.

Environmental Benefits: Extracting and purifying neon gas can be energy-intensive. Recycling significantly reduces the need for this process, leading to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Estimates suggest a reduction of up to 95% in carbon emissions compared to producing new neon gas.

    So, neon gas recycling offers a win-win for chipmakers – it helps them become less reliant on external factors for a key material and also contributes to a more sustainable manufacturing process.

    Recycling technology emerges as a viable option, offering both economic and environmental benefits.

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    SK Hynix and TEMC’s Innovation:

    Over the course of a year-long collaboration, SK Hynix and TEMC have developed a sophisticated neon gas recycling process.

    This process involves the collection of discharged neon gas through a scrubber, such as followed by purification and treatment to extract reusable neon gas.

    This technology is a big deal because it can potentially:

    • Reduce Reliance on Imports: Currently, chipmakers rely heavily on imported neon gas. Recycling can lessen this dependence.
    • Boost Sustainability: Recycling neon gas reduces greenhouse gas emissions, making chip production more sustainable.

    Overall, SK Hynix’s innovation paves the way for a more cost-effective and eco-friendly semiconductor industry.

    By implementing this technology, SK Hynix anticipates significant cost savings, reducing its annual expenditure on neon gas imports by an estimated $30 million.

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    Environmental Impact:

    Beyond economic advantages, the neon gas recycling technology demonstrates a commitment to environmental sustainability.

    By reusing neon gas and reducing reliance on imports, SK Hynix aims to lower its greenhouse gas emissions, particularly Scope 3 emissions associated with the semiconductor industry’s value chain.

    The company expects to cut carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by 12,000 metric tons per year.

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    Future Outlook:

    SK Hynix’s neon gas recycling technology represents a significant milestone in the company’s journey towards sustainable chip manufacturing.

    It aligns with broader initiatives to increase the use of recycled materials in semiconductor production, with targets set to reach 25% by 2025 and 30% by 2030.

    Moreover, the company plans to expand its recycling efforts to include other gases and chemicals used in chip manufacturing, further enhancing its environmental stewardship and competitive edge.

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    The collaboration between SK Hynix and TEMC underscores the importance of innovation and sustainability in the semiconductor industry.

    By pioneering neon gas recycling technology, these companies not only stand to realize substantial cost savings but also contribute to global efforts to reduce carbon emissions and build a more sustainable future for chip manufacturing.

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