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Agilent acquires second nanotech company

Posted: 10 Jun 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:nanotech  nano-sized  particle size  nano-indentation 

In less than a week, Agilent Technologies has acquired a second nanotech company as the company expands its porfolio of equipment for measuring nano-sized elements.

Agilent said it will acquire Particle Sizing Systems, a privately held company that designs and manufactures instruments that measure the particle size and stability in materials. Last week, it bought the Nano Instruments business unit of MTS Systems Corp., a supplier of nano-indentation systems and related equipment

Financial terms for latest acquisition were not disclosed.

"With the growth of products based on nanomaterials, understanding the size of these particles is increasingly important both for the manufacturer to control product performance and stability, and to understand the impact of these new materials on the environment," Mike Gasparian, vice president and general manager of Agilent's Materials Science Solutions Unit, said in a statement.

Particle Sizing's instruments measure particle size using industry-standard laser light scattering technology. Proprietary algorithms characterise particle size distribution, measuring both large and small particles in the dispersion. Along with chip makers, the instruments are used for pharmaceuticals, inks and pigments, polymers, food and cosmetics.

A key wafer manufacturing process is accurate chemical mechanical polishing (CMP) that requires fine control of the planarisation steps needed for higher density chips. The planarisation or polishing steps are affected by the use of colloidally-dispersed metal oxide slurries, primarily silica and alumina, with mean diameters in the 10- to 200-nm range.

Laser diffraction is widely used to characterise the particle size distribution of slurries, which contain a small volume percentage of particles greater than 1 micron. The particles can cause scratches and other defects on wafer surfaces.

According to Particle Sizing Systems, laser diffraction by itself is inadequate for quantitatively determining the concentration of out-of-spec slurry particles. However the company's techique, called single particle optical sizing, counts particles, making it a useful tool for characterising CMP slurries.

Particle Sizing Systems was formed in 1978. Most of its 37 employees will join Agilent.

- Nicolas Mokhoff
EE Times

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