Dielectrics and Substrates in Semiconductors: Technologies and Global Markets

Published - Nov 2009| Analyst - Kaustubha Parkhi| Code - SMC040C
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Report Highlights

  • Overall sales in the global market for dielectrics and substrates were nearly $14.5 billion in 2008 which decreased slightly to $13.5 billion in 2009. But by 2014, it is projected to increase to $18.3 billion, for a 5-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.2%.
  • The largest segment substrates market was nearly $13 billion in 2008; this further decreased to $12 billion in 2009, this projected to reach $16 billion in 2014, for a 5-year CAGR of 5.9%.
  • Sales in the dielectrics market amounted to $1.5 billion in 2008 which decreased to $1.4 billion in 2009. This is projected to increase to $2.2 billion in 2014, for a 5-year CAGR of 8.5%.  


Dielectrics and substrates are the two entities in which the sophistication of software-based circuit design meets the plain reality of hardware properties and limitations. For years, silicon and its derivatives have admirably handled dual roles, allowing unprecedented advances in hardware features in areas such as speed of operations, form factor, and power consumption in addition to setting and maintaining a trail-blazing pace of successive advances. Doped silicon has been the preferred material and silicon dioxide has been the preferred dielectric. Along with polysilicon, the purest form of silicon, which performs the function of a conducting metal, the metal (polysilicon), oxide insulator (silicon dioxide), and semiconductor substrate (doped silicon) troika has simplified the question of maximizing yields while maintaining high levels of seamlessness in mainstream electronic devices. The metal oxide semiconductor (MOS) paradigm is almost synonymous with silicon.
The troika is under increased pressure due to the challenges posed by 45-nm and beyond dimensioned nodes, wherein the physical properties of the silicon family are no longer able to cope with the resultant exacting demands. This report examines these challenges and evaluates possible alternative materials.
We would like to clarify that the substrates and dielectrics covered in this report are the ones that are used at the wafer level and not the packaging level.  
This study has the following goals and objectives:
  • Forecasting the market size for overall semiconductor dielectrics
  • Forecasting the market size for overall semiconductor substrates
  • Breaking down the overall semiconductor dielectrics market on the basis of materials employed: silicon dioxide, low-k, and high-k
  • Breaking down the overall semiconductor substrates market on the basis of materials employed: silicon, gallium arsenide, gallium nitride, indium phosphide, sapphire, silicon carbide, and germanium
  • Breaking down the individual dielectric material type market along end-user applications and geographical regions
  • Breaking down the individual substrate material type market along end-user applications and geographical regions
  • Analyzing the historical benefits and impending challenges in the usage of silicon dioxide as a dielectric
  • Analyzing the historical benefits and impending challenges in the usage of silica dioxide as a dielectric
  • Enlisting the benefits, progress made, stakeholders involved and prospects associated with individual high-k and low-k dielectric materials
  • Enlisting the benefits, progress made, stakeholders involved, and prospects associated with individual alternative substrate materials
  • Discussing the methodologies involved in deposition of high-k and low-k dielectrics
  • Discussing the historical domains associated with individual alternative substrate materials
  • Analyzing the stakeholder value chain for dielectrics and substrates
  • Analyzing the patenting activity involving high-k and low-k dielectrics as well as alternative substrates  
The remarkable achievements obtained with silicon in the electronics domains clearly have limitations, which are closely tied to the material properties of silicon. Ironically, the drivers of electronic devices evolution have highlighted the limitations of silicon. 
  • The ever-increasing hunger for speed and bandwidth has now engulfed the wireless domain in addition to its traditional hold in the wireline domain. Frequency of operations is closely related to heat dissipated as every operational cycle results in release of energy because of state transition. The operational frequency supported by a particular medium is the function of the medium’s electron mobility. On the substrate front, the band gap parameters of silicon limit the electron mobility, making it unsuitable for high-frequency operations. 
  • The scenario on the dielectric fronts is even trickier. Dielectrics are supposed to perform the function of providing capacitive coupling at semiconductor gates and providing insulation along interlayer interconnects. Miniaturization leading to compression in nodal distances has reduced the thickness of these dielectrics. This leads to leakage of electrons and loss of capacitive coupling and insulation. Industry experts have devised a two-pronged strategy of tackling this issue: Increase the capacitance at the gate level (high-k dielectric) and reduce it at the interlayer level (low-k dielectric). Naturally, a single material cannot exhibit dual characteristics; hence, the search is on for finding effective replacements for silicon dioxide on both these fronts. 
  • It is not as if dielectrics and substrates can be altered in isolation. There is a very close coupling between these two elements. Dielectrics are grown on the substrate. Consequently, there has to be compatibility between them in order to ensure smooth interfaces, patterning of nanoscale features, and consistency in thermal, mechanical, and electrical properties. Any change in dielectrics, therefore, will prompt a corresponding change in substrate and vice versa.
It is widely believed that any change in the dielectric and substrate materials will have far-reaching impact on the overall electronic device value chain. However, it is not as if these alternative materials will get rid of silicon and its derivatives altogether. Thus, the industry has to tackle the most pressing design concern of interfacing all these materials with the existing silicon and its derivatives. This is the single most pressing impediment to the introduction of alternative materials. 
This reports aims at exploring the key alternative materials and forecasting their acceptance levels in the core semiconductor domain.
The report forecasts the size of the semiconductor dielectrics and substrates mainstream and alternative material market from 2009 through 2014.
The executive summary provides a snapshot of key findings of the report. 
The section on the state of the art in dielectrics and substrates sets the ground for further discussion by identifying the position for dielectrics and substrates in semiconductor product engineering. It then defines dielectrics and substrates and enlists their key functions and areas of applications. It details the characteristics of mainstream dielectric and substrate materials – silicon dioxide and silicon, respectively.
The section on challenges and new approaches in dielectrics and substrates enlists and analyzes the challenges confronting silicon dioxide and silica in the continuing enhancement of speed, form-factor economy and power-consumption efficiency witnessed by semiconductor devices. It then proposes alternative materials, the reasons that make them attractive and the challenges confronting their complete integration with the mainstream CMOS processes. 
The section on stakeholders explains the criterion for classification of stakeholders – material suppliers in case of dielectrics and wafer suppliers in case of substrates in both mainstream and alternative material categories, foundry owners, and original equipment manufacturer (OEMs). It also provides the latest information on the dielectric- and substrate-related initiatives of key companies in each category.
The U.S. Patent Analysis section highlights the patenting activity underway in the area of dielectric and substrates. The section classifies the patents awarded according to the activities involved in the synthesis of high- and low-k dielectrics as well as alternative substrates. It also provides a geographic and distribution by company of these patents. 
The report is punctuated with numerical findings and projections that substantiate and drive the theoretical discussion. 
The report will be relevant to the following stakeholders:
  • Dielectric material suppliers, which are mainly chemical producers in assessing the size of the electronic device market for the various materials supplied by them 
  • Substrate wafer suppliers for determining the future of mainstream silicon substrate wafer market as well as the market for alternative compound semiconductors as well as germanium 
  • Semiconductor specialists in devising a comparative analysis of alternative materials and the state of the art in their synthesis into the mainstream manufacturing processes 
  • OEMs for evaluating their pros and cons of semiconductor integrated circuits (ICs) based on mainstream and alternative material. 
The report forecasts the market size for the following:
  • Mainstream dielectric: Silicon dioxide
  • Alternative dielectric: High-k and Low-k
  • Mainstream substrate: Silicon
  • Alternative substrate: Gallium arsenide, gallium nitride, indium phosphide, silicon carbide, sapphire, germanium
The following metrics are forecast:
  • Value in millions of dollars
  • Volume in kg million for dielectrics and million square inch (MSI) for substrates
  • Market by end-application categories such as telecommunications, Computing, consumer electronics, industrial, scientific, and others
  • Market by geographical regions such as the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), and Asia Pacific (APAC)
Both primary and secondary research methodologies were used in this study. Industry experts were interviewed; secondary sources included industry consortia, individual company financial statements, published opinions, and other published sources. 
Kaustubha Parkhi has worked in a broad range of functional roles with leading telecom operators and service providers such as Reliance Infocomm, Ramco Systems, and BPL Cellular. He has written on an array of telecommunications- and electronics-related subjects based on his critical analysis of the underlying technology and its business impact. Kaustubha holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Equivalent of Bachelor of Science) in Electronics and Telecommunications, and an MBA in Systems.
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The information developed in this report is intended to be as reliable as possible at the time of publication and of a professional nature. This information does not constitute managerial, legal, or accounting advice; nor should it serve as a corporate policy guide, laboratory manual, or an endorsement of any product, as much of the information is speculative in nature. The author assumes no responsibility for any loss or damage that might result from reliance on the reported information or its use.


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Published - Sep-2005| Analyst - Laurel Sheppard| Code - SMC040B

Report Highlights

  • The semiconductor dielectric materials market in North America is estimated at $107 million in 2005 and will rise at an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 7.3% to $152 million by 2010.
  • The global market will rise from $597 million to $1,012 million in the same time period.
  • The market is dominated by inorganics at about 86%, with the rest going to organics and hybrids. This dominance will decrease to around 75% by 2010 as some of the newer organics/hybrids replace conventional materials.
  • Semiconductor supply and demand and the technology changes required by modifications to circuit complexity and density will drive sales of equipment associated with dielectric material deposition and processing.
Published - Feb-2001| Analyst - Judith Harper| Code - SMC040A

Report Highlights

  • The semiconductor dielectric materials market is estimated at $1.2 billion in 2000.
  • This market will grow at an average annual rate (AAGR) of 15% to more than $2.4 billion in 2005.
  • Interconnect applications dominate the market throughout, accounting for 99.9% of the total $2.4 billion dielectric market in 2005.
  • Gate applications are the fastest growing, at an AAGR of 22.5% through 2005, but to only $1.5 million.
  • The market for dielectric deposition and processing equipment is estimated to be $6.5 billion in 2000 and will expand at an AAGR of 24.9%, reaching $19.8 billion in 2005.


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