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Spearheading ALD development

Picosun is a leading developer and manufacturer of Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) reactors. Leading scientific institutes and companies across Europe, North America, and Asia use its unique ALD process tools – and Picosun believes that ALD will be the key enabling thin film technology in many future micro- and nanotechnology applications.

Picosun’s unrivalled expertise in the field has been built up over three decades in manufacturing ALD reactors in Finland. The latest in the line, the revolutionary P-series batch reactor, represents the fourteenth generation of reactor design for its designers.

One of the biggest strengths of Picosun’s ALD tools has been the ease with which they can be scaled up from R&D to production, thanks to their use of the same basic construction. The SUNALE™ R-series has been optimised for research, product development, and pilot production, while the SUNALE™ P-series offers fast and reliable compact reactors for production purposes.

A technology for the future

The ‘secret’ behind the success of the ALD method lies in its uncontested uniformity, as it can create thin films on practically any surface: flat, curved, complex 3D, powder, or porous. ALD thin films are virtually gap-free and evenly thick down to the atom scale; and can act as barriers or enablers in a wide variety of ways, depending on their structure.

Although ALD is only at the beginning of its usefulness for industrial production, the fact that it is by far the most reliable atom-scale method of producing thin films should stand it in good stead as the sizes at which electronics and IT products are produced continues to shrink almost exponentially.

ALD is already being used in producing microprocessors, Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM) chips, optoelectronic read heads, Thin Film Electroluminescent (TFEL) flat panel displays, and electronic components. Among those to have pioneered the industrial use of Picosun’s ALD systems is Vaisala, the Finnish-based global leader in meteorological measurement technology, which integrated ALD into its high-volume production in 2007.

Picosun systems represent the cutting edge of ALD technology. A substrate loader, vacuum pump, ozone delivery system, and nitrogen generator can all be integrated in a single unit, as can in-situ analysis equipment.

It all goes back to the Big Bang

ALD technology takes us back to the end of the first three hours following the Big Bang, when atoms first appeared. During the next 13.7 billion years, atoms became molecules, and molecules turned into elements and the world we now know – all of which came full circle, as it were, one afternoon some 30 years ago when a researcher in Helsinki succeeded in growing a uniform thin film one atom thick.

ALD creates thin films by building up layers like this, and can make use of a wide variety of processes, from basic oxides and nitrides to advanced nanolaminates and graded layers. A total of 10 sequential deposition pulses results in a film just one nanometre thick, substantially less than that of a typical human hair, which measures a full 80,000 nanometres across!

> Juhana Kostamo
(Published in HighTech Finland 2009)