Ever wondered what washing machines, healthcare equipment, smartphones, computers, and cars have in common? They all rely on the use of semiconductors, the powerful brains behind a variety of modern technology applications. However, a lot goes into making such semiconductors – from raw materials to ultrapure water – thus requiring continued investment in global semiconductor markets.
Silicon is the most used semiconductor material for producing integrated circuits (ICs), also known as microchips. These microchips are made up of multiple transistors that function as switches, controlling the flow of electricity and enabling complex electronic functions. The silicon wafers are applied in a dozen or so layers to make a semiconductor, and before being applied, the wafer must be cleaned.
The semiconductor industry has advanced considerably over the past four decades. Today, specialized chip factories produce transistors that are just 1/50,000th the size of a human hair. Smaller transistors mean more powerful chips, which means, in turn, smaller and more powerful devices, such as smartphones and other technologies. This is why cleaner water is necessary.
Water Purification & Semiconductors
Ultrapure water (UPW) plays an essential role in the production of microchips. The cleaner the water, the lower the possible defects, which can maximize semiconductor productivity and yields. Ultrapure water is primarily used in two ways: for cleaning and for cutting. The cleaning occurs before the semiconductor processes by washing away excess particles. Ultrapure water can also be used in etching or polishing wafers. Any impurity in the water can cost the semiconductor manufacturing facility and the customers buying the products. This is why water goes through rounds of filtration, including reverse osmosis (RO), ultrafiltration (UF), and/or nanofiltration (NF). The preparation and cleaning phases are crucial for ensuring precise device structures.
Investments in the Semiconductor Market
Due to the current shortage of chips and the projected increase in demand for electric vehicles, artificial intelligence (AI), military, and internet of things (IoT) over the next years, the North American and European governments have unveiled ambitious plans to attract semiconductor companies to their territories. Currently, eighty percent of semiconductor foundries are concentrated in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and other south Asian nations. The construction of new semiconductor factories and the expansion of existing plants are leading to a significant increase in demand for UPW with a limited supply of companies available to achieve the task.
With decades of experience and worldwide references, Kurita is distinguished in the industry as one of the leading global water treatment providers for UPW production. Kurita has been one of the leaders in the Asian semiconductor industry for years and continues to focus on expanding their semiconductor expertise in the North America and Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) regions. The acquisitions of Pentagon Technologies, Avista Technologies, and the Arcade Engineering Group as well as a partnership with Fracta Leap combine crucial capabilities that enable Kurita to provide a total solutions approach for semiconductor customers.
Trends in the North American Semiconductor Market
The United States CHIPS and Science Act (H.R.4346) of 2022 includes a historic investment to swell the production of American-made semiconductors, confront supply chain vulnerabilities to make more goods in the United States, and revitalize the United States’ scientific research and technological leadership. Additionally, the law provides subsidies to manufacture semiconductors in the U.S., boost science and technology research, and address anti-competitive trade practices.
The CHIPS bill appropriates $54.2B for subsidies to build chip plants in the U.S. and support U.S. chip research and development. It provides a twenty-five percent tax credit for building and equipping U.S. chip plants, which is estimated to provide an other $24.3 billion in support. The bill significantly increases authorizations for federal science and technology research and development programs, specifically authorizing about $174 billion through 2027 to support the U.S.’s science and technology base. This includes inter-agency programs to boost technological innovation and help translate federally funded research to commercial applications.
The United States already has many semiconductor plants, but with the new act, the government hopes to entice more companies into the North American market. Across the Atlantic Ocean, European governments have implemented their own act.
Trends in the European Semiconductor Market
The European Chips Act will allow semiconductor manufacturers based in Europe to significantly increase their production capacity, thus relieving the current supply difficulties in the medium term, much like the United States market. The ambitious European goal is to increase production capacity to over twenty percent by mobilizing over 43 billion euros from the European Commission. In this context, the Chips Act focuses on two main areas: strengthening Europe’s competitiveness in this sector and driving the digital and green transformation forward.
Semiconductor, UPW, and Sustainability
Raw material shortages, supply bottlenecks, and a shortage of skilled workers pose major challenges for all companies involved. It is important to ensure that overall solutions are cost-effective and sustainable in the long run. After all, water and energy shortages represent further required innovations.
The goal for creating UPW must be to achieve a significant reduction in water use within the next few years from its current total consumption of seventy-two percent. In addition to the planning of the fabs and their facilities, the focus must be on sustainable operation at an early stage. The design of ultrapure and corresponding wastewater facilities should prioritize long-term reduction and reuse strategies. When it comes to sustainability in UPW, the three ideals between industry, society, and the environment must be maintained and respected.
- The access to high-quality drinking water is to be maintained.
- The responsible use of ground and surface waters is to be ensured.
- The natural water balance and ecological development of our waters are to be supported.
Your UPW Partner
At Kurita, we are always looking to grow our business worldwide and improve your business through innovative and sustainable solutions. We aim to create more possibilities for success and build stronger connections with you that solve social and industrial issues. In the semiconductor industry, Kurita offers a wide variety of innovative solutions to help our customers best achieve their operational objectives and sustainability goals.