Date of registration 2022-07-06
Plasma technologies are widely used in various industry sectors including for semiconductor, display, vehicle, new materials, environmental, space, and bio applications. They also provide new paths to innovation in traditional industries. As a research institute specializing in innovative plasma technologies, the Korea Institute of Fusion Energy (KFE) has been satisfying the technological needs of cutting-edge industries, contributing to national agendas as well.
On 17 May, ‘ECR plasma based sputtering technology (ECR plasma sputter)’ was transferred to a domestic company, AVACO CO., LTD, for application in the next-generation display industry. The company has had three technology transfers from KFE. The second transfer in March 2016 was related to the ECR plasma sputter, which was ranked as the world’s best level. This latest transfer is a new concept ECR plasma sputter that will help overcome key issues in application to production lines, proving its prowess one more time.
Sputtering is a process in which particles are ejected from a solid target material following bombardment of a target by ions accelerated from a plasma. Sputtering is used for the thin film deposition process in semiconductor or display fabrication. The ECR plasma sputter has three distinctive advantages compared to conventional magnetron sputter. First, it can operate at one order higher vacuum, which helps minimize impurities and improve the directionality of sputtered particles toward a substrate. Second, it can independently generate a high-density ECR plasma near a target and control the bias voltage of the target from 0 V. By decreasing the bias voltage this can minimize high-energy particles that cause damage to thin films. Third, the lower bias voltage can increase the number of particles with moderate energy, which have a heating effect on a few layers of the thin film surface, known as atomic layer heating. This makes it possible to lower the substrate temperature. With these strengths, the ECR plasma sputter can resolve problems inherent in traditional sputters and satisfy the requirements for next-generation display’s thin-film deposition process.
The first ECR plasma sputter had several drawbacks that made it difficult to employ in production lines. For example, there was a drop in deposition rate due to the magnet structure and the microwave launcher module, the microwave generator had a short life span, and the size of the sputter system was excessive. After years of research and development, KFE finally succeeded in developing a novel ECR plasma sputtering technology, that incorporated new types of magnetic structure and microwave launcher module.
According to principal researcher Dr. Seong Bong Kim, “the technology includes new ECR plasma sputter concepts, which can solve the drawbacks. If we succeed, AVACO CO.,LTD will become a “first mover” leading the future in sputtering technology, and we will be able to contribute to enhancing national competitiveness.”
KFE and AVACO CO., LTD have been collaborating for thirteen years to develop the sputtering technology, with two previous technology transfers that led to the successful development of a 5G ECR plasma sputter. Both teams of researchers agreed that mutual trust over a long time as well as close communication and collaboration between the two institutes contributed significantly to their success. With the third technology transfer, the company will try to apply the new concept ECR plasma sputter to an 8 G sputter system for the first time in the world, and increase domestic and global market share by replacing conventional sputters as well as creating a niche market for ECR plasma sputters.
President Suk Jae Yoo of KFE added, “It would be an exemplary case of technology transfer based on the trust between a government-funded research institute (KFE) and a medium-sized company (AVACO CO., LTD). KFE will keep trying to contribute to the nation’s industrial growth by disseminating excellent research results into various industry sectors.”
There are still a few tasks remaining until actual factory deployment, yet both institutes are eager to implement the world-class level technologies. Let’s cheer for the new ECR plasma sputters to be successfully deployed in the next-generation display industry, to vitalize the cutting-edge plasma-applicable industries!