Interview with the inventor of IntraCu®

Metal Deposition Solutions

We now offer a comprehensive portfolio for the semiconductor sector. Among the high-quality electrolytes and electrodes, the IntraCu® products for copper plating in semiconductor advanced packaging stand out above the rest. 

The creator of this revolutionary product line is Dr. Yun Zhang, founder and managing director of our partner company Shinhao Materials LLC. We talked to her about the products themselves, but also about her as a person - read the short interview here:

Interview

Umicore: Dear Yun, can you describe how did you get into the plating world?

Dr. Yun Zhang: The focus of my studies was chemistry/electrochemistry. I always liked that you can do a lot with electrochemistry, especially when you combine it with other methods like spectroscopy and apply it in real time and in situ. I used spectroelectrochemistry during my postdoctoral years to understand electron transfer rates in photosynthesis and redox chemistries of buckminsterfullerene (C60). This qualified me to work as a Member of Technical Staff (MTS) at Bell Labs. My first project was to develop lead-free soldering processes for electronic applications, and that's how I got into the world of plating.

Umicore: What motivated you to found Shinhao Materials?

Dr. Yun Zhang: In my previous role at Cookson Electronics Enthone (now MacDermid-Enthone within Element Solutions Inc.) as Global Business Director for Wafer Level Packaging, I regularly visited key customers such as Intel, Samsung, SK Hynix, Amkor, TSMC, SPIL, ASE, STMicro and Infineon. I brought their feedback and challenged the teams to improve certain aspects of our products or develop new chemical processes. For various reasons, this was difficult when the company was the market leader.

So I thought, maybe I should try to do it myself, because as a technologist I also have something to do with marketing and sales. That was my motivation to start Shinhao Materials. Looking back, it's amazing how little I knew about running a business from A to Z, but it's been an incredible journey.

Umicore: Can you briefly introduce Shinhao Materials and the products they offer?

Dr. Yun Zhang: Shinhao Materials LLC is based in Suzhou, China. The company's mission is to develop and produce new materials to meet the ever-changing demands of the semiconductor industry and to serve its customers in a timely and cost-effective manner. As a technology-driven company with low capital investment, we have focused on technological innovation.

In the relatively short time of existence, we have done so by developing several unique classes of copper plating additives that have proven effective in addressing the electrical, thermal and stress challenges we face today. The company's IntraCu® products are patent-protected in the US, Korea, Taiwan and mainland China.

Umicore: The collaboration with Umicore has been in place since November 2019. Can you describe the customer benefits of Shinhao's collaboration with Umicore Metal Deposition Solutions?

Dr. Yun Zhang: In November 2019, Shinhao Materials entered into a strategic partnership with Umicore Electroplating (now Metal Deposition Solutions). Shinhao's contribution in this relationship is technical know-how and intellectual property in copper additives - Umicore's contribution is its global infrastructure in EHS, logistics and commercial distribution, and its reputation as a responsible, high-quality materials supplier.

Two and a half years later, despite the physical separation caused by the pandemic, Shinhao and Umicore staff have demonstrated and validated in the marketplace with an important customer the synergy envisaged when the collaboration was discussed. The clients got the best of both worlds: Flexibility and quick response of a small company, reliability, capacity and global reach of a large corporation.

Our product developments are the result of talking to customers and trying to meet their current and specific needs.

Dr. Yun Zhang (CEO Shinhao Materials LCC)

Umicore: The semiconductor market is booming and growing from year to year. Which application area is most interesting for the placement of Shinhao products?

Dr. Yun Zhang: Since day one, Shinhao Materials has focused on copper plating of semiconductors in the advanced packaging sector. Our product developments are the result of talking to customers and trying to meet their current and specific needs. In this context, we focus on improving our customers' tool utilisation in times of chip shortage by increasing their throughput by better utilising their existing plating tool with a 2-in-1 copper plating process.

In addition, the same process can be extended to future generations without the need for requalification, which is a significant cost burden for customers. At the same time, we are looking at the fundamental issues such as mechanical and thermal stresses that the industry faces and asking how we can address these issues through grain engineering by manipulating the copper additives. In this context, we have developed electrodeposited copper with very different grains/microstructures. The most recent example is nano-grained copper for potential copper-to-copper hybrid bonding application.

Umicore: Yun, you are not only busy with your company, but also with lectures, conferences and technical talks. Where can we see your next presentations?

Dr. Yun Zhang: I will be at ISES global in Arizona on 9 and 10 May and at ECTC in San Diego in June. I am looking forward to many interesting conversations with friends from the industry but also to new faces with ideas and visions. The open exchange of trends and challenges in the semiconductor industry allows us to go new, efficient ways - not least through our IntraCu® products.

Umicore: One last question: You've been in Germany for a whole week now - what did you like best?

Dr. Yun Zhang: Having a good time with friends and getting to know each other even better while working 😊

About the person

Dr. Yun Zhang, Founder and Managing Director of Shinhao Materials LLC, has been involved in materials innovation, research and development, marketing and sales for over 28 years and holds 28 issued patents and numerous journal publications and awards.

She began her career in 1994 at AT&T Bell Labs, where she conducted materials research and development. Her work on tin whisker growth gained international recognition as she experimentally demonstrated the driving force of this phenomenon for the first time and developed solutions to mitigate it. In 2002, Cookson Electronics Enthone appointed her global R&D director for its electronics business.

In the ensuing 10 years, Dr Zhang's knowledge and leadership in the fundamental understanding of molecular-level electrodeposition processes, combined with a deep understanding of technology trends and customer needs, has won her many friends and willing partners at world-class device manufacturers and key customers. These close and collaborative partnerships resulted in a win-win situation for all parties involved in RDL, copper column and TSV deposition.

She earned a BS in Chemistry from Nanjing University and a PhD in Chemistry from Brown University. 

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