Imec Unveils Ways to Reduce CO2 levers for Advanced Lithography & Etch Process

Imec's unveiling of methods to reduce CO2 emissions in advanced lithography and etch processes signifies a pivotal step towards sustainable semiconductor manufacturing.


In the bustling realm of semiconductor technology, where innovation drives progress at breakneck speed, sustainability has emerged as a crucial focal point. At the 2024 Advanced Lithography + Patterning Conference, imec, a global leader in nanoelectronics and digital technologies, spearheaded discussions on reducing carbon emissions associated with lithography and etch processes.

Their groundbreaking research, unveiled through the lens of sustainability, illuminates a path towards a greener future for semiconductor manufacturing.

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The Carbon Conundrum:

Imec’s presentation shed light on the staggering carbon footprint of semiconductor devices, revealing that devices fabricated in 2021 accounted for a staggering 175 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent. To put this into perspective, it’s akin to the yearly emissions of approximately 30 million people.

Within this context, lithography and etch processes emerged as major contributors, responsible for over 40% of emissions associated with advanced logic node manufacturing.

Leveraging Innovation for Sustainability:

Emily Gallagher, a principal member of imec’s technical staff, highlighted key strategies aimed at mitigating the environmental impact associated with lithography and etch processes, two critical steps in semiconductor manufacturing.

Ultra-Thin Resists:

Additionally,Imec’s focus on the development of ultra-thin resists involves creating thinner layers of material used in the lithography process.

Thinner resists require less material, reducing overall consumption and waste. Additionally, thinner resists may require less energy and fewer chemicals during processing, further contributing to environmental conservation.

By prioritizing the use of ultra-thin resists, imec aims to minimize resource consumption and environmental impact associated with lithography processes.

Minimal Passivation:

Passivation refers to the deposition of a thin layer of material on the surface of a semiconductor wafer to protect it during subsequent processing steps. Imec’s approach of minimal passivation aims to reduce the amount of material used for this purpose.

By minimizing passivation, imec can decrease the consumption of materials and chemicals, leading to a reduction in environmental impact. Additionally, minimizing passivation may result in less waste generation and lower energy consumption during manufacturing processes.

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Low-Temperature Etching:

Etching is a critical step in semiconductor manufacturing that involves removing unwanted material from the surface of a wafer using chemical or physical processes.

Moreover,Imec’s emphasis on low-temperature etching involves performing etching processes at lower temperatures, which can lead to several environmental benefits.

Lower temperatures may require less energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with manufacturing processes. Additionally, low-temperature etching may enable the use of less hazardous chemicals or reduce the consumption of process gases, further minimizing environmental impact.

However,the implementation of these strategies by imec has resulted in significant progress towards reducing the environmental footprint of advanced Lithography and etch processes in semiconductor manufacturing.

For example, the development of a High-NA-compatible metal line etch process has demonstrated a notable 6% reduction in process gas emissions.

Excelling patterning performance while reducing Co2 Consumption

Navigating the Lithography Landscape:

Addressing the challenges posed by lithography, imec advocates for the adoption of greener energy sources, streamlined patterning techniques, and enhanced scanner throughput.

Adoption of Greener Energy Sources:

Imec advocates for the adoption of greener energy sources to power lithography equipment. By transitioning to renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power, semiconductor manufacturing facilities can significantly reduce their carbon footprint.

Green energy sources produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional fossil fuels, thus contributing to environmental conservation and sustainability efforts.

Streamlined Patterning Techniques:

Imec emphasizes the importance of implementing streamlined patterning techniques in lithography processes.

Streamlining patterning techniques involves optimizing process parameters and tool configurations to minimize waste and energy consumption.

By improving efficiency and reducing resource usage, streamlined patterning techniques help mitigate the environmental impact of lithography processes while maintaining high-quality output.

Enhanced Scanner Throughput:

Imec proposes enhancing scanner throughput as a means of reducing emissions in lithography processes.

Increasing scanner throughput allows semiconductor manufacturers to produce more wafers per unit of time, thereby improving operational efficiency and reducing energy consumption per wafer. By maximizing scanner throughput, manufacturers can achieve higher productivity while minimizing environmental impact.

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Transition to High-NA EUV Single Exposure Equivalents:

Imec highlights the potential environmental benefits of replacing multi-step litho-etch processes with High-NA EUV single exposure equivalents.

Morepver,High-NA EUV (Extreme Ultraviolet) lithography enables the fabrication of semiconductor devices using fewer process steps, leading to reduced resource consumption and emissions.

Although High-NA EUV lithography may require increased power consumption compared to traditional methods, the overall reduction in emissions achieved through process simplification outweighs the environmental impact of increased power usage.

Through meticulous modeling and analysis, imec demonstrates the viability of such strategies in achieving tangible environmental benefits.

A Rising Tide of Sustainability:

Imec’s commitment to sustainability resonates not only within their organization but also throughout the broader semiconductor community.

The SPIE Advanced Lithography and Patterning conference witnessed a notable uptick in papers dedicated to sustainability, signaling a growing awareness of the industry’s environmental footprint.

Imec’s contributions, encapsulated in four pioneering papers, underscore the imperative for collective action in mitigating climate change.

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As we navigate an era defined by unprecedented technological advancement and environmental urgency, imec’s pioneering efforts in sustainable semiconductor technologies stand as a beacon of hope.

By leveraging innovation, collaboration, and a steadfast commitment to sustainability, imec charts a course towards a future where semiconductor manufacturing harmonizes with ecological stewardship.

Moreover, as individuals and organizations alike, let us heed the call to action, forging a path towards a greener, more sustainable tomorrow.

Editorial Team
Editorial Team
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