South Korea Gains $28 M Investment to Make Chip Materials
US firm DuPont has decided to invest $28 million in South Korea to produce photoresists and other materials by 2021. The move will help in reducing the country’s heavy reliance on Japan for key materials used in chip manufacturing.
Japan currently produces approximately 90% of photoresists, which are thin layers of material used to transfer circuit patterns onto semiconductor wafers.
In July 2019, Japan imposed curbs on Korean exports of three materials including photoresists, amid a bilateral diplomatic row over wartime labourers. This prompted South Korean tech firms to diversify their supply chains.
Although Japan reversed its restrictions on photoresist exports last month, tighter curbs remain on the two other key tech materials - fluorinated polyimides used in smartphone displays and hydrogen fluoride used as an etching gas in chip manufacturing.
In a statement, South Korea’s Industry Minister commented, “Although Japan has recently eased export controls of photoresists, which is partial progress, it is not a fundamental solution.”
According to a trade ministry official, DuPont plans to invest in two existing factories in South Korea, and build a new one. The ministry said that although the existing Korean factories currently produce photoresists, these are not the type necessary to manufacture chips with an advanced technique know as extreme ultraviolet or EUV lithography. The investment will also contribute towards the production of CMP pads, which are polishing pads used during the manufacturing process.