Discover SEQENS’ electronic activities with Francis Belanger
Discover Seqens Advanced Specialties and our activity with the interview of Francis Belanger, Global Electronic Market Manager.
The electronic business line
- 1. Could you present our activity ?
Francis Belanger : As part of Seqens Advanced Specialties, our electronics business line covers three different activities. The first one consists in the production of microelectronic materials for photolithography, used to produce integrated circuits, display devices, MEMS (MicroElectroMechanical Systems). The second one corresponds to organic and printed electronic materials that you can find in OLED screens, sensors… Additionaly we provide expert services in custom manufacturing, low metal purification and scale-up.
2. What are your industrial assets ?
F. B. : Three industrial assets are involved in electronics. Porcheville, in France, is the global R&D center, dedicated to innovation management, quality & analytical expertise and kilo-lab and pilot plants. Saint-Jean, in Canada, is a manufacturing and R&D site, with low metal purification expertise. The plant is fully equipped with analytical laboratories (including metal analysis) and clean room. Couterne is a second manufacturing site, mainly involved in microelectronics intermediates. Thiq plant allows us to secure our supply chain and also involved in organic electronics. Globally, about fifteen people are dedicated to electronics R&D. We have 2230 m2 of lab floor and 350 m3 of manufacturing capacity.
One of our strengths is our capacity to produce low-metal polymers in a reliable way, allowing us to reach high quality levels.
photoresist polymer and Photolithography
3. Could you explain us what is photolithography ? What kind of materials do you produce to do that ?
F. B. : After applying onto the substrate the antireflective coating to prevent light scattering, you add the photoresist polymer. At this step, you obtain a material ready to be etched. Then you expose the plate to a UV ray through a mask, you develop it by removing the destroyed polymers (i.e. the one which has been exposed) and etch it.
The first photoresist polymers we produced were g-line and i-line polymers, which enabled to reach 250-nm to 90-nm patterns , based on phenolformaldehyde (Novolac) polymers with DiazoNaphtoQuinone (DNQ) functionalization. The second generation was KrF and ArF polymers, sentive to these kinds of lasers. With this technology, you can obtain higher performance memory and logic processors. In these cases, polymers can be, for instance, hydroxystyrene-based, acrylic co-polymers, with highly hydrophilic lactone groups and removable adamantane groups.
In addition to photoresist polymers, we provide antireflective coatings and topcoats in order to increase the light intensity passing to the photoresist layer and to improve the withstanding vs etching of the components. Furthermore our offer consists in polymers as polysiloxanes, polyimides and polyamic acid derivatives for interconnection and packaging.
To develop new applications, miniaturization of electronic components, we also work on new emerging semiconductorlithography technologies as Extreme UltraViolet (EUV) photolithography (materials which allow pattern <0,1 nm), E-beam lithography (technology without mask), Directed Self-Assembled polymers (DSA) and NanoImprint Lithography (NIL, creating a 3D pattern by pressing a template on a soften substrate). We can provide to our customers the support they need such as feasibility studies, scale-up support to get a product from lab to plant.
Printed and organic electronics
4. A word about printed and organic electronics ? What is your contribution ?
F. B. : Organic electronics is an important part of the emerging domains of technology as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and 4.0 industry. These industries increasingly need efficient and smaller electronic components, as they are becoming ubiquitous in the daily life.
We are fully involved in the design and production of materials for printed and organic electronics. Those materials are used for new generations of cheaper, lighter, thinner and more flexible products such as Organic PhotoDetectors (OPD), Organic PhotoVoltaic (OPV), Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLED) and Organic Field Effect Transistors (OFET). These products are used for example in the last generations of cellular screens, transparent solar cells, sensors in daily objects, connected devices, money markers…
5. What does that entail ?
F. B. : Such components made to transform light into electricity, or vice versa, consist of an active layer, charge transport layers, with two electrodes and a support. The active layer can transform electrical charge difference into light, for OLED for instance. This layer is surrounded by layers dedicated to hole or electron transport, themselves connected to an anode and a cathode as input and output of electric current.
Active and transport layers are polymers and small molecules, which can be heterocyclic compounds as polycarbazoles (proprietary products), polythiophenes, polypyrroles…
Sustainable innovation is the future of the electronic market
6. According to you, what is key for the futur ?
F. B. : One of our other concerns is sustainability : we provide solutions to replace toxic materials or solvents used in processes. More globally, by bringing an alternative to traditional inorganic materials, whose production and retreatment could be unfair for environment, we contribute to develop new eco-friendly solutions.
To prepare the future, and integrate new technologies, we establish close partnerships with universities, such as the university of Laval (Quebec), with whom we have developed since 2007 polycarbazole polymers. We also work with the universities of Bordeaux (France) and Albany (US).
Last but not least, a major capacity increase and upgrade in Saint-Jean has been finalized in 2020 for 8 m€, bringing high level of quality control and production equipment, with new capacities to follow the high growth of this industry.