The Ultra-pure water systems market is growing at a faster pace with substantial growth rates over the last few years and is estimated that the market will grow significantly over the next 5-10 years. Significant expansion in the electronics and semiconductor industries is likely to act as a high-impact growth driver for global ultra-pure water production. Coupled with that, a new EU GMP Annex 2 (Manufacture of Biological Medicinal Products for Human Use) has increased the focus on and quality requirements for higher purity equipment and processes. This Annex plays a very important role in the emerging global Gene Therapy industry.
So, what exactly is ultra-pure water and what role does it play in the semiconductor industry? Ultra-pure water is water that has been processed to the highest levels of purity, removing all contaminant types. Unfiltered contaminants are present in the form of dissolved or suspended particulate matter, inorganic and organic compounds, and various dissolved gases that may be reactive. Ultra-pure water acts as an extremely effective cleaning agent due to its unstable/aggressive nature, without damaging the wafer. Ultra-pure water returns to a stable, less aggressive state as it ‘grabs’ or ‘sucks up’ the contaminants and by-products from the manufacturing process, sweeping them away. These are removed in the recirculating ultra-pure water loops which return to the treatment equipment within the system.
Ultra-Pure Water: What Can It Do?
There are several benefits associated with ultra-pure water in the semiconductor and pharma/biotech industries (where they refer to high purity water as WFI – Water for Injection) such as:
- Removes dissolved gases from chemicals and pharmaceuticals
- Lowers the vapour pressure in pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities to prevent corrosion
- Keeps metals shiny by reducing oxidation and rusting (this prevents employees from having to sandblast surfaces before finishing them)
- Prevents microbial growth found in or well water, helping companies avoid the risk of bacterial infections
- Ensures that batteries and semiconductors function properly – this also extends their usable life and helps them perform better
- Prevents product contamination and gives products a longer shelf life because there are no bacteria or chemicals left behind after processing
- Helps companies comply with government regulations associated with the use of ultra-pure water, such as those mentioned above
Ultra-Pure Water in the Semiconductor Industry
A number of industries rely on ultra-pure water for their operations and without ultra-pure water in the semiconductor industry the end product would not be usable.
Semiconductors are an essential component of electronic devices, enabling advances in communications, computing, healthcare, military systems, transportation, clean energy, and countless other applications; any electronic equipment cannot function without a semiconductor.
In the manufacturing process of these semiconductor chips, ultra-pure water plays a vital role in preventing these chips from getting contaminated. Even a minute layer of impurity can make the chips unstable.
Ultra-pure water in the chip manufacturing process requires special attention to detail. The slightest impurity can cause defects in the finished product. Ultra-pure water has been ‘filtered’ through numerous process steps such as reverse osmosis, deionisation, sterilisation and ultra or nano filtration to remove impurities such as dissolved minerals and organic contaminants down to a parts-per-billion or even parts-per-trillion level. Ultra-pure water helps to improve production yields and reduce manufacturing costs and defects.
Semiconductors require a huge amount of pure water in their manufacturing and are built-in layers on silicon wafers into integrated circuits. Ultra-pure water is required for many process steps. Early stages of device fabrication require repeated steps for wafer cleaning, rinsing and surface conditioning. After each one of several dozen layers of semiconductors are added to a silicon wafer, it must be rinsed and cleaned properly to remove waste (ions, particles, silica, TOC, dissolved oxygen) from it. This prevents chips from getting contaminated.
How LotusWorks Technicians Make a Difference
Given that the quality of water can have a direct impact on the end product in the semiconductor industry, employing Ultra-Pure Water Technicians ensures that the water quality meets the highest possible standard. Ultra-Pure Water Technicians typically have a background in mechanical or chemical engineering and use their knowledge to test water samples, operate, maintain and improve treatment plants to ensure system performance and removal of impurities.
At LotusWorks, Ultra-Pure Water Technicians are a vital asset to the company’s semiconductor clients’ as they play a fundamental role in ensuring that the water used in the production of chips is in its purest form, producing the highest quality product and reducing product waste. The Ultra-Pure Water Technicians operate and maintain the equipment used to produce ultra-pure water. This includes reverse osmosis units, ion exchange units, and deionisation units. The technician will also perform quality control tests on the finished product water to ensure that it meets specifications for use in the manufacturing process.