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An Industry First: SK hynix Sources Neon Gas Locally, Increases Its Use in Chip Production to 40%

By October 7, 2022 October 11th, 2022 No Comments

SK hynix announced that it has succeeded in locally sourcing neon gas, a raw material essential in semiconductor manufacturing, and has increased its use to 40% in chip production. This marks the first time for a Korean chipmaker to procure local neon gas.

SK hynix now ​maintains a stable supply of neon gas despite the unstable international market, and is able to significantly reduce purchasing costs. The company aims to use 100% of locally produced neon gas by 2024.

Until now, Korean semiconductor companies have relied solely on imports of neon gas. In recent years, neon prices have been soaring as the international situation in major overseas production regions has become disrupted. In order to address the risk of supply instability, SK hynix has collaborated with Korean partners TEMC, a semiconductor gas manufacturer, and steelmaker POSCO, to produce the gas domestically.

A large air separation unit (ASU) plant is required to extract neon, which is rare in the air, resulting in a high initial investment. In response to SK hynix’s objective to procure neon locally, TEMC and POSCO collaborated to develop a technology for producing neon at a low cost by utilizing existing facilities. SK hynix evaluated and verified the locally produced neon and succeeded in using it in the semiconductor manufacturing process earlier this year. The neon is produced by POSCO, processed by TEMC, and then supplied to SK hynix as a top priority.

Neon is the main component of excimer laser gas used in semiconductor photolithography . The excimer laser gas produces a short wavelength ultraviolet laser light that engraves electric circuits onto wafers. Although 95% of the excimer laser gas is composed of neon, neon is a rare gaseous element that makes up only 0.00182% of the air.

SK hynix introduced locally produced neon to semiconductor photolithography in April this year for the first time in the domestic semiconductor industry, increasing its use to 40% of all neon used in the manufacturing process. By 2024, all of SK hynix’s semiconductor manufacturing will use locally produced neon.

In addition, to reduce the risk of raw material shortages, SK hynix plans to procure krypton and xenon gas locally by June 2023 both of which are used in the etching process* of semiconductors. As a leading global technology company, it plans to continue securing the resources necessary for the development of advanced semiconductor technologies.

*Etching process: the process of removing unnecessary parts on the exterior of the circuit engraved on the wafer through photolithography.

“Cooperation with domestic partners greatly contributed to stabilizing supply in spite of an uncertain market due to the unstable international situation. We plan to strengthen the semiconductor raw material supply chain through continuous cooperation with our partners,” said Hongsung Yoon, Head of FAB Materials Procurement at SK hynix.