KETs Impact: Self-assembling polymers enable efficient semiconductor fab


The recent SusChem White paper ‘Impact: Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) in Horizon Europe’ included a number of success stories highlighting publicly funded innovation involving KETs and the SusChem Newsroom is featuring a selection of these fruitful 'SusChem inspired' initiatives.

KETs are technologies selected for their ability to address global challenges, support the development of new products, and stimulate economic growth.

Sustainable chemistry is essential to the technological advance of KETs including advanced materials, advanced manufacturing technologies, industrial biotechnology, micro and nanoelectronics, nanotechnology and photonics. SusChem's key enabling technologies provide the critical building blocks for the solutions needed to achieve a sustainable low carbon circular economy. You can find out more here.

Our ninth KETs success story highlights PLACYD, a FP7 project funded via the Electronic Components and Systems for European Leadership (ECSEL) Joint Undertaking, and led byArkema to establish a dedicated material manufacturing facility to produce block copolymers meeting the rigorous standards required for use in industry as nanolithographic templates for electronics and semiconductors. PLACYD brought together leading researchers and industries to allow for the first time the integration of synthesis through to wafer scale production and system/device characterisation developing an industrial solution including all key technologies including Materials, Metrology, Integration Processes, and Design tools.

Pilot Line for Self-Assembly Copolymers Delivery

A disruptive technology breakthrough strengthened EU leadership in semiconductors

Public funding aligned an eco-innovation system. Synergies enabled a breakthrough development

The semiconductor industry economy relies on geometrical scaling of transistors to insure performances improvement, power consumption reduction and cost per transistor reduction. Therefore, the well-known Moore’s law, relating to the reduction of devices’ critical dimensions by a factor of two every 18 months, has been driving the semiconductor roadmap. Up to now, devices scaling has been enabled by continuous improvements of optical lithography. Directed Self Assembly (DSA) lithography is a disruptive patterning technology that no longer relies on optics but on the polymer’s characteristics (composition and molecular weight). In DSA technology, the pattern is included within the material as the molecular weight defines the critical dimensions and the pitch the composition of the pattern.

How was the breakthrough innovation achieved? 

PLACYD project relied on a strong consortium gathering companies and academic laboratories that covered the full eco innovation system and all necessary skills from material to end-users including process and equipment manufacturers. The success of the project was established through synergies and complementarities of the partners along the value chain.

In DSA technology “the pitch is in the bottle”, the polymer and resists quality and reproducibility were key to the success of the technology. Therefore, specific efforts in developing new processes as well as new metrology techniques have been carried out leading to excellent performance and the state of the art in this sector. The metallic contamination of the resist is bellow 10ppb for all metals, the organic purity of the polymer is greater than 99.9% thanks to a unique proprietary technique that allows to discriminate homopolymers from copolymers and the copolymer dispersity has been reduced to less than 1.05.

On the patterning quality aspect, CEA-Leti developed new integration schemes that allows a wide range of configurations while insuring optimum pattern performances. 


  • Increasing European leadership in microelectronics and more specifically in lithography both in terms of academic recognition (more than 60 papers and conferences), Intellectual Property position (i.e. more than 25 patent families were applied for within the project, half of them are already public) and in terms of industrial leadership.
  • Commercial products have been launched based on PLACYD results. On the material side, ARKEMA launches its Nanostrength EO material suite that includes a full range of DSA resists for both lamellar and cylindrical patterns ranging from 20 nm to 50 nm pitches. On the design side, project partner MENTOR commercialises the DSA module within its EDA CALIBRE software suite. 

In summary, PLACYD allowed the development of a full DSA solution that covers all key axes of the technology (material, process, metrology and design) strengthening European leadership in semiconductor technology and demonstrating the compatibility of DSA with manufacturing requirements. Moreover, commercial products have been derived from PLACYD developments: the DSA material suite by ARKEMA and DSA software module by MENTOR.

More information

PLACYD - Pilot Line For Self Assembly Copolymer Delivery (FP7 / ECSEL JU GA 621277)

Read the SusChem White Paper ‘Impact: Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) in Horizon Europe