Component Management

Sustainable semiconductor manufacturing from AlixLabs

17th March 2022
Sam Holland

AlixLabs is developing its method for manufacturing semiconductors in ways to make them cheaper, faster, and with a half of the energy consumption required. The work is being carried out at the RISE testbed ProNano in Lund, Sweden. AlixLabs’ innovation will contribute to a lower environmental impact in semiconductor manufacturing.

Lund is a hub for semiconductor technology, and we have seen an increased need for growth among startup companies in the region, says Michael Salter, Senior Project Manager at RISE.

To grow, they need access to equipment and cleanrooms adapted for industrialised processes.

In the semiconductor industry, there are different purity criteria for each process step that manufacturers must meet. To achieve these, dedicated equipment is required for industrial processes. At RISE testbed ProNano, startup companies are further developing nano- and semiconductor technology. Companies have access to an industrial manufacturing environment where they can scale up and pilot test their prototypes without having to invest in expensive equipment.

At ProNano, AlixLabs will be further developing a method called atomic layer etching. With this method, they can halve the number of process steps in semiconductor manufacturing and completely exclude further etching, deposition, cleaning, and lithography, which both reduces costs and energy consumption.

As a startup company, we cannot afford the large investment required to have our own clean room, says AlixLabs CEO Jonas Sundqvist.

At ProNano, we will be further developing our technology on larger wafers adapted to the industry and take our technology from technology readiness level (TRL) four, as it is today, to seven.

AlixLabs has established operations at ProNano with offices and they will primarily use the testbed's cleanroom and Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) to characterise the created nanostructures.

Lithography and nanostructuring is an expensive and time-consuming process, which also has a negative environmental impact, says Jonas Sundqvist.

With atomic layer etching, we can reduce energy consumption by up to 50 percent. An additional benefit of the method is that we conserve resources and can significantly reduce emissions and water consumption.

AlixLabs, which was founded two years ago, is focusing on their technology being ready for the market by 2025. The semiconductor innovator's silicon-based technology will primarily be used in consumer electronics such as telephones, tablets, and computers, but also Internet servers.

"Our hope is that our technology will be used in the iPhone 16," says Jonas Sundqvist.

The global semiconductor shortage is a major challenge for many industries and is expected to continue for several years to come. The European Commission is investing in a European semiconductor factory to secure domestic production.

The European industry has lagged behind and it has become too expensive for companies to manufacture in Europe. But with our technology, companies can reduce costs and manufacture semiconductors faster and, in the long run, bring back some of the production to Europe. The next step for us is to develop 2-nanometre technology, which is in line with the EU's plans for a 2-nanometre factory, as well as Intel and the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company that are exploring their options in the EU, says Jonas Sundqvist.

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