Home » knowledge » Incorporating Sustainability into the “Definition of Fab Performance”

Incorporating Sustainability into the “Definition of Fab Performance”

The semiconductor industry plans to massively expand its production capacity in the next few years, which undoubtedly poses a major challenge to the entire industry. In the future, new fabs will need to produce more chips with more complex designs and more demanding manufacturing processes, while reducing energy consumption and emissions. The good news is that engineers and scientists at Applied Materials began working on this challenge years ago. Now, we are accelerating and making progress every quarter.

The semiconductor industry plans to massively expand its production capacity in the next few years, which undoubtedly poses a major challenge to the entire industry. In the future, new fabs will need to produce more chips with more complex designs and more demanding manufacturing processes, while reducing energy consumption and emissions. The good news is that engineers and scientists at Applied Materials began working on this challenge years ago. Now, we are accelerating and making progress every quarter.

This article examines how Applied Materials is working to develop process chambers, systems and software for chipmakers to improve fab sustainability. A more sustainable fab will inevitably require a new generation of equipment, and the starting point of all this is the evolution and transformation of design thinking.

Defining “Performance Performance” to Include Sustainability

Improving “performance” is one of the most frequently cited goals in chip manufacturing. Engineers focus on maximizing scorecard criteria such as device throughput, process uniformity and electrical characteristics. Applied Materials now incorporates sustainability into its fab performance scorecard, designing systems that focus on reducing the following metrics:

• Energy consumption
• Environmental impacts of chemical use
• Footprint requirements, ie clean room area required to process each unit of wafer

In 2018, Applied Materials launched the “Sustainability Design Excellence Center” to lead the semiconductor industry’s search for cleaner, greener manufacturing methods. Using patented modeling tools, our experts develop strategies to reduce energy consumption and emissions from process equipment at the design stage, long before prototype construction begins. By creating digital models, we can also apply new ideas to existing products. With these capabilities, we are able to simulate the energy and chemical usage during wafer processing and present it in CO2 equivalent units. In this way, we can present a true and comprehensive view of the effects of our emission reduction measures.

In 2020, we raised our goals even further, announcing our “3 30s” goals for our manufacturing systems—reducing the equivalent energy consumption per wafer, the environmental impact of chemical use, and cleanroom space requirements by 30% by 2030 .

Modeling generates insights

In addition to the direct power requirements of the system, there are many factors to consider when calculating the energy requirements of a device. For example, the cold water that many systems use for cooling needs to be generated outside the clean room and pumped throughout the fab. Therefore, fabs can achieve energy savings by designing more thermally efficient systems to reduce cold water usage requirements and increase the efficiency of chillers and heat exchangers. SEMI Organization’s S23 guideline establishes the standard for this equivalent energy conversion in semiconductor manufacturing equipment. For example, the guidelines state that for every 1,000 liters of ultrapure water used, 9.0 kWh of energy is consumed to purify the water to the purity required by the fab, which provides us with a means to quantify the cost of reducing water consumption. energy saving benefits. Applied Materials has long had a voice in the development of these industry standards. In fact, some of these standards were drafted by the engineering manager who hired me to join Applied Materials.

Some digital models of fab equipment include the equivalent energy requirements of key components. These models provide a more complete picture of the overall energy situation of the fab and can effectively help chipmakers find ways to effectively reduce energy consumption without compromising other performance indicators.

Minimized chemical impact

More efficient use of chemicals in semiconductor processing is a worthy goal. However, the economical use of chemicals should also be prioritized, and judging the priority is sometimes not easy. To help fabs address this issue, Applied Materials has developed a framework for modeling the environmental impact of our systems using chemicals based on the global warming effects of various chemicals .

Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) data simulates the CO2 emissions from a material’s production cycle, from raw material extraction, to delivery, to the end-use location. LCI data is available for many of the chemicals we routinely use in our products. Inert gases such as helium and argon, although not greenhouse gases, also generate carbon emissions during production and transportation to the fab, sometimes referred to as the “cradle-to-gate carbon footprint.” For example, existing LCI data from Sphera shows that helium is about eight times more carbon dense than an equivalent volume of argon. These insights help our engineers conceive greener options during process development.

Our framework also takes into account the emissions of the process chamber after abatement (also known as the “gate-to-grave carbon footprint”). The detailed study quantifies the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of several greenhouse gases used in semiconductor manufacturing relative to carbon dioxide.

Incorporating Sustainability into the “Definition of Fab Performance”
Global warming potential of fluorocarbons and other greenhouse gases commonly used in the semiconductor industry relative to carbon dioxide over a 100-year time horizon

We combine these models to develop a cradle-to-grave life-cycle understanding of chemical use and use this to determine the most beneficial opportunities to reduce overall environmental impact. We share our analysis with clients so they can apply this knowledge to their own sustainability work.

Incorporating Sustainability into the “Definition of Fab Performance”
The “cradle to grave” scope covers the global warming impact of the production and transportation of feedstock chemicals, as well as wafer processing emissions after abatement

small is big

Footprint is an important, but sometimes underappreciated, leverage point for improving fab sustainability. In short, a system with a smaller cleanroom footprint allows more efficient use of energy-intensive shared resources such as air conditioning, plumbing, and materials. Additional benefits can be obtained by increasing system throughput for a given footprint.

We are working on system designs for some of the company’s major product categories that will reduce the processing footprint per wafer by 20%. These improvements will help our customers achieve their sustainability goals and make each future round of capacity expansion more ecologically efficient.

The whole industry works together

Creating a more sustainable semiconductor industry is a challenge that requires global cooperation. The metrics used in our “3 30” goals will guide Applied Materials to make more informed chamber, system and process technology design decisions.

The global economy needs more semiconductors, so nearly every chip maker is planning to build new fabs. From the fab and its supporting equipment, to the upstream and downstream of the Applied Materials value chain, we are committed to working with our customers and suppliers to drive sustainable growth across the board. Armed with the right thinking, our industry can certainly “achieve a better future.”

About the Author:
Incorporating Sustainability into the “Definition of Fab Performance”
Benjamin Gross, Ph.D.

Dr. Gross is a chemist and systems engineer with the Applied Materials Center for Design Excellence for Sustainability. He supports Applied Materials’ “3 30” goals for manufacturing systems and is responsible for monitoring progress toward efficiency improvement goals. Dr. Gross holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University and a B.S. from the University of California, Berkeley.

The Links:   6MBI10L-060 MG300J2YS50 IGBTS