Semiconductor and Electronics


Is Semiconductor Grade Nitric Acid Setting New Standards for Semiconductor Fabrication?

Author : Priyanka | March 20, 2024

Imagine a world where your smart devices, from phones to tablets, work faster and smarter. Behind the scenes, there's a tiny superhero called Semiconductor-Grade Nitric Acid. It's like the secret sauce in your favorite recipe, but for making the powerful chips that run your gadgets. This special nitric acid helps create the building blocks of technology, ensuring your devices are not just good, but extraordinary.

So, let's learn more about these unsung tech world heroes that ensure your gadgets run smoothly.

What is Semiconductor Grade Nitric Acid?

Semiconductor grade nitric acid (HNO3) is a high-purity form of nitric acid specifically produced for the semiconductor and electronics manufacturing industries. It is used in manufacturing as a chemical bath for silicon wafers. A key property of the compound is that it can eliminate particles and contaminants from the semiconductor surfaces after the etching process. It also improves surface smoothness and flatness and withdraws the oxide layer from the surfaces of semiconductors.

This grade of nitric acid is often used in various electronic devices; hence, its demand in numerous industries has risen in recent years. According to Kings Research's report, the global semiconductor grade nitric acid market is likely to be valued at USD 110.9 million by 2030.

How is Semiconductor Grade Nitric Acid Formed?

The formation of semiconductor grade HNO3 involves a specialized production process with the following steps:

Step 1: Ostwald Process

In this stage, anhydrous ammonia is oxidized to nitric oxide in the presence of a rhodium gauze catalyst or platinum while applying high temperatures and pressures. The net reaction involved in this process is the reaction of nitrogen dioxide with water, resulting in the formation of nitric acid.

Step 2: Purity Check

This step involves distillation and blending capacity to ensure the highest purity standards are met, exceeding SEMI II standards. This ensures that the nitric acid meets the stringent purity requirements of the semiconductor industry.

Step 2: Trace Metal Analysis

Trace metal analysis is performed at very low parts per billion (ppb) levels. This ensures that the nitric acid meets the stringent purity requirements of the semiconductor industry.

Benefits of Semiconductor Grade Nitric Acid

Semiconductor-grade HNO3 offers a wide range of benefits. Some of the key benefits include:

  • Cleaning Properties

Semiconductor grade HNO3 is primarily used in industrial manufacturing processes. It serves as a chemical bath for cleaning silicon wafers. It plays a crucial role in eliminating particles and contaminants from the semiconductor surfaces after the etching process, contributing to the overall cleanliness and quality of the semiconductor surfaces.

  • Surface Enhancement

This grade of nitric acid enhances the surface smoothness and flatness of semiconductors. It also aids in removing the oxide layer from the surfaces of semiconductors, improving semiconductor surface quality.

  • Ultra-High Purity

Semiconductor-grade nitric acid is produced with ultra-high purity levels, exceeding the requirements of Federal Standard A-A-59105. This high purity is essential for ensuring the quality and reliability of semiconductor manufacturing processes.

  • Exceeds Industry Standards

Semiconductor-grade HNO3 is produced using consistent capital investments in distillation and blending capacity, which ensures exceeding industry standards. These standards are mandatory for various industrial applications.

Is Semiconductor Grade Nitric Acid Safe?

When handling semiconductor grade nitric acid, it is crucial to adhere to strict safety precautions to ensure the well-being of personnel. Below are some vital safety measures to consider:

  • Always read the Material Safety Data Sheet and guidelines before handling semiconductor-grade HNO3. It includes vital information on its safe use, storage, transportation, and disposal, providing essential guidance for safe handling and storage.
  • Store semiconductor-grade HNO3 in dry and cool glass containers that are not near sources of ignition, flammable materials, other bases, acids, cyanides, and acetone.
  • Use secondary containers to separate nitric acid from other types of acids in the storehouse.
  • Regularly check stored material for signs of deterioration.
  • Nitric acid is extremely corrosive in the presence of certain metals such as aluminum, copper, and oxides; thus, avoid contact with these materials to prevent hazardous reactions.
  • Proper waste segregation is essential to avoid laboratory accidents and explosions.
  • Nitric acid waste should not be mixed with other waste streams including waste generated from other inorganic acids.
  • Consider using pre-labeled & dated safety-coated glass bottles for nitric acid waste, and it is important to follow regulations governing storage, transportation, treatment, and waste disposal.
  • When handling semiconductor-grade nitric acid, appropriate personal protective equipment should be worn, including gloves, goggles, and protective clothing, to minimize the risk of exposure to the skin and eyes.
  • It is essential to understand the risks associated with semiconductor-grade nitric acid before handling it. This includes being aware of its corrosive nature, potential reactions with other substances, and the release of toxic fumes under certain conditions.

3 Major Manufacturers of Semiconductor Grade Nitric Acid in 2024

Below are three key companies involved in the manufacturing of high-quality semiconductor grade HNO3.

1. Honeywell International, Inc.

Honeywell International, Inc. is a renowned American conglomerate and technology company with a significant presence in the semiconductor industry. Honeywell offers a wide range of high-purity chemicals tailored for the semiconductor industry, like semiconductor-grade nitric acid. The company's expertise in the production and purification of ultra-high-purity chemicals, with impurities as low as 10 parts per trillion (ppt), makes it a key player in providing essential chemicals for semiconductor manufacturing processes.

2. Central Drug House Fine Chemicals

Central Drug House (CDH) Fine Chemicals is a prominent supplier of high-quality lab reagents and chemicals for analytical and chemistry laboratories. While CDH is recognized for providing a wide range of chemicals for various industrial applications, including semiconductor manufacturing. The company is renowned for its high-quality chemicals, catering to various industry needs and research requirements.

3. Nutrien Ltd.

Nutrien Ltd. is a prominent producer of nitric acid in the global market, with a strong presence in various industrial domains. The company is recognized for manufacturing and distributing several key chemical compounds utilized in enriching agricultural fields on a large scale. The company's reach extends to chemical, construction, electronics, petrochemicals, automotive, and various other industrial sectors globally.

In a Nutshell

Semiconductor grade nitric acid is a highly specialized and crucial chemical in the semiconductor industry. Its exceptional purity and stringent manufacturing processes make it a key component in various semiconductor manufacturing applications.

Moreover, it is important to handle semiconductor grade HNO3 with the utmost care and adhere to strict safety protocols to ensure the well-being of personnel and the integrity of the work environment. This special-grade nitric acid stands as an essential and sensitive material in the semiconductor manufacturing process, contributing to the production of advanced electronic devices that power modern technology.

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