NuMat Technologies, one of C&EN’s 10 start-ups to watch in 2016, has agreed to produce metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) for Versum Materials, a supplier of materials and gases for the semiconductor industry.
It is one of the first commercial supply deals for MOFs—an emerging class of nanoporous materials—anywhere in the world. MOFs have surface areas far exceeding traditional adsorbents and can be used to selectively capture, store, or separate gases and liquids.
NuMat will supply Versum with Ion-X, a product featuring two MOFs in granular form. Versum will add Ion-X to canisters to enhance the purity and safe storage of the reactive gases arsine, phosphine, and boron trifluoride, which it sells as dopants to the semiconductor industry.
Versum also plans to design and build a new Ion-X dopant gas fill plant at its production site in Sihwa, South Korea.
The adsorbant properties of Ion-X will enable the dopant gases to be stored at subatmospheric pressure and still hold a similar amount of gas as standard high-pressure canisters do, NuMat says. This storage reduces risks posed by the toxic gases should a canister leak.
The MOFs also stabilize the reactive gases. Additionally, the MOFs act as traps for impurities, providing a low-cost way to meet the electronic industry’s high-purity requirements.
Overall, Ion-X has performance advantages over carbon-based adsorbent technology when used in the ion implant processes during the manufacture of semiconductor devices, NuMat says.
NuMat’s know-how is largely in the design of its MOFs and knowledge of the right raw materials and reaction parameters.
NuMat’s commercial deal with Versum follows the first commercial use of a MOF in mid-2016, designed and produced by Belfast, Northern Ireland, start-up MOF Technologies to slow the ripening of fruit with the controlled release of the gas 1-methylcyclopropene.
MOFs have been in development for more than 10 years. Gas producers had planned to introduce them commercially several years ago, but production costs proved too high for large-scale applications.
NuMat and MOF Technologies have developed relatively low cost production technologies. Both firms say initially they are targeting niche applications where MOFs have an advantage over existing technology.