SK Hynix has been testing hafnium (Hf) high-k precursor provided by Mecaro during the second half of 2021, TheElec has learned.
The chip giant currently solely uses precursor supplied by SK Trichem.
If Mecaro’s precursor passes SK Hynix’s evaluation, it will likely be included as another supplier to the chip giant, which uses the material for its production of advanced DRAM.
SK Hynix’s evaluation of the material is expected to take a minimum of two months and up to six months.
A source knowledgeable on the matter said the evaluation was at its mid-stage, so far Mecaro’s precursors have shown better performance compared to SK Trichem’s.
The high-k precursors are deposited on top of the capacitors on DRAMs.
The material is deposited to reduce interruptions between capacitors, which they are more prone to when the gate width is narrowed, to increase permittivity.
SK Hynix had used zirconium (Zr) high-k material for late-10nm DRAM such as 1x and 1y, but it has changed the material to Hf for even more advanced 10nm DRAMs.
The deposition process for Hf high-k material is called HAC, which is patented by Japan’s Tri Chemical Laboratories, which jointly owns SK Trichem with SK Materials.
Mecaro, to avoid the patent, filed for its own patent called MAP Hf for the process.
The patent avoids the patent filed in Japan and those owned by SK Trichem, while meeting SK Hynix’s requirements, the source said.
MAP stands for Mecaro Advanced Precursor, they said.
SK Hynix has been attempting to reduce its exclusive reliance on Hf high-k material from SK Trichem, they added.
If Mecaro’s precursor is approved, SK Hynix will be able to pressure SK Trichem to reduce its price.
However, SK Trichem could reduce the price of its own volition before Mecaro can enter the supply chain to limit how much in volume the latter can win in orders from SK Hynix, another person familiar with the matter said.
Mecaro had previously been the sole supplier of Zr precursors to SK Hynix, but began to lose orders when rival UP Chemical also began to supply the material, they said.
Mecaro saw its sales from materials drop due to this and is hoping for a turnaround from the deal with SK Hynix, they added.