SESHA 2003 Symposium - Abstract

Environmental Health and Safety Concerns with Thin Gate-Oxide Materials

Moibi, Tom
(University of Minnesota, Duluth)

The modern engineer must be increasingly conscious of the environmental consequences of technological innovation!

The goal of my paper is to give real and definitive guidelines for the average person, and EHS professionals to evaluate the risks associated with integrating thin gate-oxide technology


According to research, smaller and faster semiconductor circuitry has increasingly fueled an information technology boom over the past four decades, producing cheaper and more powerful computing devices that have boosted virtually every aspect of our economy. The technology curve in the semiconductor looks like a hockey stick, rising dramatically in just the past few years.

The International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductor (ITRS) has provided valuable data based on this research. The roadmap has used white, yellow, and red blocks to illustrate this technology progress. The white blocks represent proven technological solutions, yellow blocks show where promising technologies exist, and red blocks define challenges without solutions. The term "red brick wall" describes portions of the map containing large numbers of red squares - and hence the greatest challenges. According to these data, technology requirements for quality rapid assessment methodologies for new chemicals, and materials lie in the red block.

As per the roadmap, some of the problem areas include; design sharing and reuse, testing of high-speed interfaces, integrating thin gate-oxide materials, adding new gate stack processes and fine-resolution optical-mask fabrication. My research will revolve around the technologies being developed for thin gate-oxide materials.

The Challenge: Strategic Goals and Areas of Concentration
A key factor in the rapid development of semiconductor technology over the last few decades has been the ability to produce and scale down SiO2 films. "By the year 2006 the 0.1m process will be in production, 300mm wafers will be preferred, and 3.5GHz will enable chip-frequency-on-chip. Because scaling down the feature size also will decrease the gate dielectric, bits will take less energy to flip." (
Unfortunately, below the 25 A thickness range, SiO, films exhibit large leakage currents and boron penetration from the polysilicon gate into the channel. Larry Grabiak of the Society for Protective Coatings, believes this will require the industry to switch over to new higher-gate insulating materials, whose characteristics and processing requirements are unfamiliar

Given the limited window of time, I will focus on one identified roadblock; the "Technological challenges of integrating thingate-oxide materials." I will research the existing literature, and consult with professionals in the field in order to;
* Create awareness, and identify existing guidelines on the process, as well as health and safety characteristics of integrating thin gate-oxide materials.
* Evaluate procedures for safeguarding and protecting the users of the equipment and facilities instituting thin gate-oxide technology.
* Indicate opportunities for new research and innovation in this area, especially with regard to health and safety concerns.

My research will culminate in a final report addressing the following;
* Explaining the current technological state of thin gate-oxide materials,
* Identifying the proposed chemicals and the possible EHS hazards associated with thin gate-oxide materials,
* Identifying the EHS hazards involved with the equipment and facilities required for thin gate-oxide materials technology.

This report will illustrate to "non-insiders" the approach taken by industry to address and resolve problematic areas as defined by the International Technology Roadmap for semiconductor.


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Sandia National Laboratories, 1998. SAND98-1914, "1998 Technolor Roadmap For Integrated Circuits Used in Critical Applications," The International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS), International SEMATECH, Inc. /120301a.html

[abstract as .pdf]