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Cleanroom Technology Cleanroom Technology: Why The Right Idea is Often Found in Other Industries...

Author / Editor: Christian Ehrensberger, Frankfurt am Main / Dominik Stephan

The trend towards smaller cleanroom units is obvious. No matter if you look at pharmaceutical industry or at medical technology. And the cleanroom becomes mobile. Ideas how to develope cleanroom technology often come from other disciplines...

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People are the biggest “particle accelerators” – that is why turning off some systems when production is not in progress (e.g. at weekends) offers potential savings.
People are the biggest “particle accelerators” – that is why turning off some systems when production is not in progress (e.g. at weekends) offers potential savings.
(Bild: Klaus Hohnwald/STZ-EURO)

There are few areas of applied technology that unite as many fields of expertise as do cleanrooms. Here, ventilation and air conditioning technology, water treatment, measurement and control technology, sensor technology and general analytical tools and procedures (e.g. particle counters) are but some of the fields involved, and progress in these areas benefits all manner of applications, from the miniature structures of the worlds of microelectronics and micro-system technology to the endless expanses of aerospace technology and the huge field of life sciences.

In all of these industries and sectors, there has been a major trend away from large cleanrooms towards small, local solutions. This is due in large part to the miniaturisation of the structures that must be produced. In the field of semiconductor technology, for example, the goal is to put more and more information on a single silicon wafer, and this means applying lines that are even thinner than those used today. Structures as small as 20 nanometres in size are already in production, and Intel has announced that it will be able to produce structures as small as 14 nanometres in the coming year. In fact, the current objective is to achieve a scale of 7 nanometres.

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Extreme Methods for Extreme Conditions – Everyday Busienss for Cleanrooms

By way of comparison, deep ultraviolet (DUV – wavelength range: below 300 nm), which is conventionally used for structuring, has a wavelength of 193 nanometres. With the utilisation of a combination of laser masks it is possible to produce structures of as small as 120 nanometres, yet to produce structures that are even smaller, it is necessary to utilise extreme ultraviolet (EUV – wavelength range: 121 – 10 nm).

In areas such as these, even a single grain of dust can negatively impact the entire process – it can even make it necessary to discard entire lots. For quality reasons alone, this means that in the field of semiconductor technology it is advisable to use cleanrooms that are as small as possible. Cost factors must also be considered, as every cubic centimetre of cleanroom is expensive...

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