SAN FRANCISCO—The price of slurries used in chemical mechanical planarization (CMP) in semiconductor manufacturing is going up thanks to a Chinese embargo of rare earth oxides, according to an analyst.
The market price of cerium oxide has increased to approximately $50 per kilogram in September, up from $15 per kilogram in April and $9 per kilogram in September 2009, according to Robert Castellano, president of the Information Network (New Tripoli, Pa.).
China, which controls more than 90 percent of the rare earth minerals market, cut export quotas in July by 72 percent to shore up prices and ensure domestic supplies, Castellano said. The Chinese government's strict export control policy will result in a very tight supply situation and is expected to continue into 2011 and beyond, Castellano said.
Castellano said chip makers extended the use of fumed silica or colloidal silica slurries for shallow trench isolation CMP down to the 90-nm technology node, but that the high oxide-to-nitride selectivity inherent in ceria-based slurries makes them a requirement for ICs below 90-nm.
"We will see STI slurry prices in the $50 per gallon range in the short term," Castellano said. "Slurry suppliers need to reduce the amount of ceria solids in the slurry to keep prices stabilized, yet maintain the slurry’s high performance and selectivities already standard in IC manufacturing."
According to the Information Network's new report on CMP technology, Hitachi Chemical was the leading supplier of STI slurry in 2009 with a 55 percent share of the $70 million market. The market for ceria-based slurry for hard disk drives is about a third of the IC market, with Showa Denko and Mitsui the market leaders, according to the report.