REF Case study: Faculty of Science & Engineering

Chemistry: Developing new products and processes for thin film deposition

Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD) is a chemical process that is ideally suited to the deposition of thin films of highly pure materials for microelectronics applications. However, conventional techniques require precursor compounds with very specific properties such as appreciable volatility at atmospheric pressure.

Research at the University of Liverpool has developed new and improved precursor compounds, as well as two pioneering low-pressure CVD techniques to develop new products and processes for thin film deposition.

The new, improved precursor compounds and CVD processes have been marketed by SAFC Hitech and have had a major impact on the growth of their silicon semiconductor business. The availability of the new oxide precursor compounds has enabled SAFC Hitech to expand their customer base and help satisfy demand for increasingly diverse and exotic oxide materials.

Through close collaboration between Liverpool chemists and materials scientists, preliminary investigations of film growth were undertaken, demonstrating the viability of the precursors in actual deposition processes and thus their value to commercial users. The most promising precursors were selected for scale-up/optimisation of synthesis at a SAFC facility, with advice and input from the University.

Dr Ravi Kanjolia, Chief Technology Officer of SAFC Hitech, says: “The mainstream semiconductor industry has seen a significant demand for more exotic materials, and the expertise transferred from Liverpool chemists has allowed us to establish a world leading position with all the major industrial players.”