GreenCentre has licensed a technology for producing nano-scale copper metal layers for use in semiconductor manufacturing to Toronto-based Digital Specialty Chemicals, a fine chemical manufacturer and supplier to the microelectronics industry.
Each indispensable electronic device we own is powered by complex microchips. As our smartphones, tablets and laptops become smaller and more complex, the microchips that power them must become smaller and more complex too.
Unfortunately, there is such a thing as “too small.” As microchip size decreases, it becomes more and more difficult to connect the individual circuit components with copper – a necessary task in order for the microchip to function. Enter Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD). ALD is a highly controllable metal deposition technique that allows manufacturers to generate circuit interconnects in successive layers just one atom thick. Notwithstanding the potential of this technique, ALD’s adoption has been hampered by the availability of technically and commercially viable copper precursors, until now.
Professor Sean Barry and graduate student Jason Coyle of Carleton University recently invented a new class of metallic ALD precursors. This breakthrough metal deposition technology will allow the semiconductor industry to develop new processes for the next generation of microchips, making the use of copper ALD in large-scale manufacturing a reality. Holding the potential for new miracles of miniaturization, this technology should enable production of microchips with higher yield (less waste) and lower power consumption. For the consumer, this will mean longer battery life, more convenient sizing, less heat exerted from the object and a reduced carbon footprint.
GreenCentre originally supported this breakthrough ALD technology with proof-of-principle funding of $16,000 and, in 2011, in-licensed the technology for continued commercial development. “GreenCentre took a hands-on approach to developing and de-risking the technology,” says Dr. Mike Szarka, Commercial Development Director at GreenCentre. “We scaled up the synthesis, protected the intellectual property, funded the development of a range of compounds based on the initial invention, provided sample compounds to key international testing labs and potential customers, and marketed the technology to a worldwide audience.”
These efforts have led to GreenCentre establishing a commercial relationship with Digital Specialty Chemicals, a fine chemical manufacturer, specializing in organophosphorous and organometallic chemistry. Digital has licensed the technology from GreenCentre and will develop an industrial process to manufacture the precursor for use in the electronics industry.
“This is the first of several non-exclusive licenses we will grant for this technology, and its story is a shining example of what we do,” says Executive Director, Dr. Rui Resendes. “By bringing this platform technology in-house, managing testing and validation, and marketing it to Digital Specialty Chemicals, we were able to ensure that it will reach the marketplace and have a tangible impact on both the environment and the electronics industry.”