TAIWAN—An escalated or prolonged conflict between Russia and Ukraine could negatively impact Ukraine's long-term ability to supply the raw material gases neon, argon, krypton, and xenon needed for semiconductor production, according to researchers at TrendForce. Ukraine supplies nearly 70 percent of the world’s neon gas capacity.
TrendForce notes that gas production line interruptions in Ukraine will not halt semiconductor production lines in the short term. However, the reduction in gas supply will likely lead to higher prices which may increase the cost of wafer production.
Inert gases are primarily used in semiconductor lithography processes. When the circuit feature size is reduced to below 220 nanometers, it begins to enter the territory of DUV (deep ultraviolet) light source excimer lasers. The wavelength of the DUV light generated by the energy beam advances circuit feature sizes to below 180 nanometers.
The inert gas mixture required in the DUV excimer laser contains neon gas, which is indispensable in this mixture and, thus, difficult to replace. The semiconductor lithography process that requires neon gas is primarily DUV exposure, and encompasses 8-inch wafer 180 nanometers to 12-inch wafer 1X nanometer nodes.
TSMC and Samsung provide advanced EUV processes for most production fabs. In addition, all NAND Flash manufacturers, including Samsung and Marvel, utilize DUV lithography technology.