Especially, the rare gases are widely used in semiconductor manufacturing because of its inertness and extreme chemical stability. One major component of an Excimer laser system is Neon. It is used as a buffer gas for Argon (Ar) and Krypton (Kr) gases used in deep ultraviolet (DUV) lithography laser systems. Since Neon gas accounting for more than 96% of the laser gas mixture, a fairly large amount of neon gas is consumed to run these DUV lasers. However, due to country's instability both in politics and economics in Ukraine, the main producer of neon gas today, supply reduction has become an issue and is causing increasing concern. This concern is not only based on price increases, but has escalated to the point of supply shortages in 2015. This poses a critical situation for the semiconductor industry, which represents the leading consumer of neon gas in the world. Helium is another noble gas used for Excimer laser operation. It is used as a purge gas for optical component modules to prevent from being damaged by active gases and impurities. 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 its unstable supply and price rise has been a serious issue today. In this article, recent global supply issue of rare resources, especially Neon gas and Helium gas, and its solution technology to support semiconductor industry will be discussed.
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Hitomi Fukuda, Sophia Hu, Youngsun Yoo, Kenji Takahisa, Tatsuo Enami, "Rare resource supply crisis and solution technology for semiconductor manufacturing," Proc. SPIE 9780, Optical Microlithography XXIX, 97801J (15 March 2016);