The market for coolants used in semiconductor production is expected to change dramatically in the next two to three years, according to TheElec. This is because 3M, the world’s largest coolant manufacturer, has announced that it will stop producing coolants by 2025 in accordance with environmental regulations.
Coolants are used to absorb heat from the chamber during the wafer etching process. Different coolants are used depending on how the chip manufacturer controls the temperature.
Coolants used in refrigerators are the primary cooling product because they are relatively energy efficient and can control temperature over a wide range.
But recent moves by countries to adopt stricter regulations to protect the environment have raised concerns about the use of coolants, which can become pollutants.
The U.S. company 3M dominates the chip coolant market with a market share of up to 90 percent; the second largest producer is the Belgian company Solvay.
Last March, the Belgian government ordered 3M to halt operations at its coolant plant in Flanders after it failed to meet increased emission standards for PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which are used in the manufacture of coolants and are known to be harmful to the environment.
Initially, 3M tried to find a solution that used less PFAS, but at the end of last year 3M announced it would stop producing PFAS altogether by the end of 2025.
So far, South Korean chipmakers Samsung and SK Hynix have relied heavily on 3M’s coolant supply to produce chips.
They are expected to find alternative solutions, such as using electric water chillers that use less coolant than refrigerator-type chillers, the sources said.
They added that a gas cooling substance that eliminates coolant altogether will also be considered.