2008 R&D 100 Winner
The high-stakes semiconductor industry is historically risk-averse, because big changes lead to big risk in a complex, round-the-clock manufacturing operation. The Tempus High-Productivity Combinatorial Research & Development Workflow has been introduced by Intermolecular, San Jose, Calif., to eliminate some of this risk by providing an experimentation platform that can automate large numbers of samples at once. As many as 576 separate experimental sites can be created on a single silicon wafer using the Tempus system, which features massive parallel processing to automate experiments rapidly characterizes the physical and electrical performance of technologies under review.
For example, a five-week experiment using Tempus performed 7,635 process conditions with 60 materials using just 21 wafers and 34.5 L of chemistry. Conventional methods would require years to achieve these kinds of throughput numbers. The technology has been commercially tested in the optimization of a cleaning process at a semiconductor foundry in Taiwan (which took just nine months) and the development of a self-assembled monolayer process technology for a logic IC manufacturer. Intermolecular now produces modules for fluids processing systems and informatics processing software and is currently developing additional modules including a physical vapor deposition tool.