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Plasma Processing and Processing Science
applicable in VLSI fabrication as the industry migrates to larger and larger wafer sizes.
As with VLSI processes, one can expect that, in the various display industries, there will be a growing concern with the environmentally benign disposal of wet etchant wastes. Gaseous processes, such as plasma etching, generally result in fewer waste disposal problems and effluent volumes than, say, wet etching. Accordingly, although the required breakthroughs are challenging, so are the opportunities for large-area, low-cost plasma processes.
There are more similarities than differences among the technology requirements for VLSI and silicon-active matrix LCDs, although VLSI geometries are almost an order of magnitude smaller. Thus, as an example, anisotropic plasma etching is required to maintain critical dimensions in small etching geometries for VLSI, whereas in displays, anisotropic etching is required to maintain process tolerance over larger areas with minimum dimensions. Overetching in depth can be tolerated, whereas lateral etch nonuniformities cannot.
A second example can be drawn from the need for faster processing. Single wafer processing in VLSI needs faster process rates to achieve competitive economics. Displays also need faster process rates because display areas are large, yet their marketable costs per unit area are low. Other problems encountered in VLSI fabrication will also become important in dry processing of displays: cleaning of substrates, control of particulates, and charge-induced damage in the etching process.
To have an impact in display applications, NRL needs to proactively form teaming relationships and cooperative joint R&D programs and sponsor programs with display producers and would-be producers, researchers, and infrastructure suppliers. Specific contacts should be made with the MCC FED Consortium, the newly formed U.S. Display Consortium (USDC), and the North American Flat Panel Division of SEMI, as well as key U.S. display manufacturers. The corporate members of the USDC would be a good start: AT&T, Electro-Plasma, Magnascreen, Optical Imaging Systems, Photonics Imaging, Planar Systems, Plasmaco, Standish Industries, Tektronix, and Xerox, plus Micron Display, Sarnoff, SI Diamond Technology, MRS, Applied Materials, and so on. NRL expertise in FEDs is an internal resource that could be leveraged to acquire visibility in the display community.