Gold Refined to High Purity Level

3 min

Gold refined small

By: Bob Dixon, Product Line Director, Electronic Materials

Materion is one of few companies able to consistently refine gold to the 99.999% purity level. That ultra clean purity level is required by some of the most advanced high technology companies. Materion is the premier supplier of high-purity gold metal that conducts electrical current on semiconductor wafers, including the power amplifier chips found in nearly every wireless handset and tablet computer. 

New technologies in various market sectors such as semiconductor, wireless, LED, defense, medical and others increasingly require higher-purity Electronic Materials with controlled characteristics. Such materials can raise the bar on end-product quality and enable designers to push the limits of their applications. Additionally, Materion's gold is used for production of evaporation materials that are key to manufacturing wireless routers; including those with the new ultra-broadband technology that are optimized to meet the proliferation of wireless devices in households.

Clearly, Materion is one of the world’s largest suppliers of gold products and components with a purity of 99.999% or greater. This high level of purity, known commonly as 5-9s, means the gold has no more than 10 parts per million of other metallic impurities. Materion employs specialized refining technologies in process control, and some of the most sophisticated analytical equipment available to ensure that these grades can be produced consistently. 

Processes with the Gold Standard

The largest use of these high-purity source materials is the production of thin films using physical vapor deposition (PVD). In PVD processes, the film is formed by atoms transferring directly from the source through a gas phase and onto the substrate. The two technologies utilized most frequently for these PVD processes are e-beam evaporation and sputtering.

During evaporation processes, along with the process of being deposited as a thin film onto a semiconductor wafer, gold can be prone to eject droplets that solidify into solid particles on the wafer. This can lead to improper functioning of a microelectronic circuit and even require the scrapping of whole production lots.

Materion has been very successful in reducing this behavior, called “spitting,” by developing the proprietary EVAPro™ product line. EVAPro is a proprietary manufacturing process that deactivates this material while producing ultra-high purity evaporation materials with both low organic and inorganic impurities, while ensuring superior surface cleanliness. These Electronic Materials enable customers to increase yields and tool up-time.

Gold Standard Techniques

Materion has developed other proprietary techniques to enhance the performance of other high-purity and specialty products such as sputtering targets, specialized wire and strip materials it provides to microelectronics manufacturers and others.

In sputtering applications, the uniformity of the deposited thin films is critical to the performance and cost of the device. Super fine grain (SFG™) is a manufacturing process that optimizes the structure of Materion’s sputtering targets. Properly controlling the grain and crystal orientation of the target results in a higher-yielding, more consistent deposition.

“These processes and others are all part of our full lifecycle precious metals management service, which is a major differentiator for us in the marketplace,” says Bob Dixon Materion, Product Line Director/Precious Metals. “By integrating refining, product manufacture, precision parts cleaning and recycling into a closed loop, we are able to significantly reduce a customer’s total cost of ownership over the precious metals lifecycle.” 

gold lifecycle

Figure 1. Above diagram illustrates Materion’s integrated precious metals services and technology offering.

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