Part of the  

Solid State Technology


The Confab


About  |  Contact



Neon Gas Supply Issues Dog the Semiconductor Industry


By Jeff Dorsch, Contributing Editor

The armed conflict in Ukraine, where most of the world’s supply of neon gas for semiconductor manufacturing and other industrial applications is produced, is leading lithography equipment vendors to offer ways to reduce use of neon, which is utilized as a buffer gas for argon fluoride and krypton fluoride gases employed in lasers for chip production.

While a shaky cease-fire has been observed in Ukraine since February, combat has restricted factory activity there in the past year.

Cymer and Gigaphoton, the two leading suppliers of laser light sources for advanced lithography, last month announced measures intended to address the limited supply of neon gas.

The situation has escalated to a neon gas supply shortage, according to Joe Ganeshan, sales manager for Gigaphoton USA. “Seventy-five percent of production comes from Ukraine,” he said. “Prices are going up drastically.”

“Chipmakers are concerned about recent escalation of neon prices and supply continuity,” David Knowles, vice president and general manager of Cymer Light Source, said in a statement. “We have worked in close cooperation with our customers on an aggressive program to develop, qualify, and introduce improvements for the installed base of ArF and KrF light sources that enable significant reductions in neon consumption while ensuring system performance.”

Risto Puhakka, president of VLSI Research, agrees that the neon gas shortage represents “a critical situation” for the semiconductor industry, which is the world’s leading consumer of neon gas. The chip business is “a materials-heavy industry,” he says. Similar crises emerged in recent years with rare earths and helium, he notes.

“It’s part of this business,” Puhakka observes. “Some materials are quite exotic.”

Commodity supply issues naturally result in higher pricing, according to Puhakka. “When the price is right, they’ll find more of it,” he adds.

Puhakka speculates that “shrewd chipmakers” were cognizant of the neon supply issue as it unfolded. “They understand the risks in the supply chain,” he says. While supply chain management is a constant concern for semiconductor manufacturers, they still have to deal with supply shortages and rising prices. “At the end of the day, they don’t have a choice,” Puhakka concludes.

Gigaphoton made a move last November, offering its eTGM technology on a free-of-charge, limited basis for new and existing GT series ArF immersion lasers. Last month, Gigaphoton stepped up its efforts with what it called the Neon Gas Rescue Program. Among other measures, the company is helping customers qualify gas suppliers on an accelerated basis and pushing up implementation of its hTGM gas recycling technology to 2016.

Cymer last month said it is helping with qualifying gas suppliers, while providing software for its installed base of light sources to reduce neon consumption. The company is aiding customers through its OnPulse support program, which brought out a helium reduction kit earlier this year.

Tags: , , , , , ,

6 Responses to “Neon Gas Supply Issues Dog the Semiconductor Industry”

  1. J Burns Says:

    I don’t understand why Ukraine is so important to neon gas supply since neon is allegedly produced by fractional distillation of liquid air which I would think could be done anywhere…

  2. Terry Francis Says:

    Eximer Lasers used in Lasik are also the problem. Materials used in Semiconductors are supplied from a global supply chain. It takes a large Nitrogen ASU capability to provide crude Neon and then extensive purification knowledge.

  3. Lita Shon-Roy Says:

    This problem has been escalating since the beginning of the war in the Ukraine. We have been tracking this problem continually. Here is an excerpt from our recently released report on the Electronic Gases Market and Supply Chain:
    Neon continues to be of concern as the situation in the Ukraine region remains unsettled. 70% of the worldwide production of Neon comes from Eastern Europe. Iceblick accounts for 50% of this output with two plants, the main facility located in Odessa, Ukraine, the other in Moscow, Russia. Another 25% is accounted for by three majors, Linde, Praxair, and Air Liquide. The balance are smaller players that include the China facilities. The only Neon purification plant for Iceblick is located in Odessa. The conflict has impacted regional industrial output significantly with GDP declining 10% in 2014 and an additional 5% reduction is expected for 2015. There are an additional four purification facilities located in the world with two in the US. Prices have escalated to an obscene level over the past year. For more information please feel free to contact me or see our website.
    -Lita Shon-Roy

  4. Terry Francis Says:

    I have questions in terms of the capability of Linde, Praxair and Air Liquide in terms of capability. All three have the 5,000MT ASU at key customers sites capabile of collecting the Non -Condensables and the technology for purification. Purfications of crude Neon takes skill in terms of the separation of He and Neon in the final purifcations process and is expensive unless you have enough Neon Volume for the Batch process. China in terms of onsite investigations has capability to change market dynamics but until 2018 I expect shortages.

  5. Terry Francis Says:

    I am curious to see more of the hTGM approach of Gigaphoton as they state in their press announcement that they do not have the internal skill to design this recycle system and have approach outside suppliers with the concept of “Open Innovation” to support this approach.

  6. Paul Blase Says:

    Apparently, from a conversation with Praxair, the LNe is produced as a byproduct of the generation of LO2 for the steel industry, and the production facility has to be set up with this in mind from the beginning. Retrofitting would be too expensive. U.S. LO2 facilities simply weren’t set up to produce other gasses as byproducts.

Leave a Reply

Extension Media websites place cookies on your device to give you the best user experience. By using our websites, you agree to placement of these cookies and to our Privacy Policy. Please click here to accept.