Gigaphoton unveils world's first helium-free purge process
Gigaphoton Inc., a maker of lithography light source, has revealed that it has developed an innovative purge process, one that does not use the rare gas helium, for its flagship GT series of ArF immersion lasers. As a move toward advancing its "Green Innovations" environmental technologies where it intends to reduce the consumption of helium, the novel process does just that for lithography tools.
Since its establishment in 2000, Gigaphoton has consistently focused on achieving the highest levels of output power, performance and stability in the industry, as well as saving on power consumption to deliver the higher efficiency required for environmentally conscious green fab. Recently, an unstable supply and a price rise of helium gas have triggered Gigaphoton to work on development of the purge process that does not use helium, teaming up with a leading device manufacturer and a scanner manufacturer. At completion of evaluating the process performance at a Japanese device manufacturer, Gigaphoton has proven that this innovative purge process can be used for volume production.
On Earth, helium is a rare gas, 5.2ppm by volume in the atmosphere. It is mainly mined as a by-product when natural gas is mined. Helium has been used in various industries, including for medical equipment, linear motor cars and semiconductors, and is indispensable for modern life. But consumption of helium in manufacturing has been increased dramatically, and it is forecast that our helium supply will be depleted in about 25 years if consumption continues at the current rate. So, the unstable supply and price rise of helium has become a serious issue today.
Gigaphoton recognises that this issue produces a negative impact upon the entire industrial world. The company has considered how to use a gas substituting for helium as early as possible in order to reduce helium consumption for the purge process and thus help to conserve the helium supply for other industries that require helium more seriously, thus making a great contribution to the industrial world.
Helium is used as a purge gas for optical component modules within a laser light source. It removes active gases and impurities generated within the modules to prevent optical components from being damaged. One laser unit consumes nearly 80-160kL of helium per year. Therefore, all the laser light sources operating worldwide consume roughly 100,000kL of helium annually.
Instead of helium, Gigaphoton has developed, for the first time in the world, the purge process that uses nitrogen, an inert gas that accounts for about 78 per cent of the atmosphere, with a stable supply, and proven that the process can maintain laser performance at the same level as that with helium.
"As a laser supplier supporting the semiconductor manufacturing, we will strive to maintain a stable production environment and stay active to be conscious of global environment and whole industries," said Hitoshi Tomaru, president and CEO of Gigaphoton. "We are committed to proceeding with our EcoPhoton program to make further contributions to greening of the semiconductor industry."
The EcoPhoton program is a roadmap started in 2003 to implement Green Innovations, focusing on detailed analyses of three key cost-of-ownership (CoO) metrics: cost of consumables (CoC), cost of downtime (CoD) and cost of environment (CoE). The program aims at achieving continuous reduction of these costs by developing innovative green technologies.
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