The use of xenon difluoride (XeF2) in etching processes is gaining increased acceptance by manufacturers of MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS). However, the relatively high cost of the material continues to be a barrier to more widespread adoption. Now, Air Products (NYSE:APD) has extended its XeCoverySM: xenon recovery service to recover xenon from XeF2-based etching processes, which will help stabilize and even lower the price of XeF2, noted Gene Karwacki, commercial development manager for XeCovery at Air Products, who was speaking at the SEMICON West 2009 Extreme Electronics TechXPOT.
"Pricing for XeF2 is strongly influenced by the availability and pricing of xenon," said Karwacki. "Over the past two years, the market price for XeF2 has more than doubled because of the world-wide demand for xenon in other applications such as semiconductor manufacturing, plasma displays, lighting, and aerospace. For users and those considering using XeF2 for a MEMS process, XeCovery enables a more stable and lower cost structure for the material required for their process."
The XeCovery xenon recovery service is an on-site service that extracts xenon from process effluent streams. An enriched mixture of recovered xenon is compressed and stored. Full vessels are then transported offsite for distillation. Air Products assumes responsibility for owning, operating, and maintaining the units placed at a site, which limits a customer's investment only to costs associated with installation and utilities to operate the equipment.
"By recovering the xenon from the waste stream, Air Products is recovering a valuable material using significantly less energy than what is needed to extract xenon from the atmosphere," said Karwacki. "Furthermore, Air Products can then use the recovered xenon to manufacture XeF2. A bundled XeCovery service and XeF2 molecule offering from Air Products provides an attractive solution for the MEMS market."