MICROELECTRONICS Fostering Growth Opportunities in the Ultrapure Water Market [Sep 2011]

Sustainable development in the Ultrapure Water market goes hand-in-hand with the electronics market. Presently, the major application of Ultrapure Water is in the power industries, pharmaceuticals, and laboratory work. But, there can be a drastic change in the scenario with the establishment of new fabs and PV manufacturing units.
Ultrapure Water RequirementsThousands of gallons of water are required to produce one silicon wafer. Wafers are building blocks in the electronics industry. Estimates reveal that the electronics market in India will grow to $400 billion by 2020, of which chips will account for US $50-60 billion. The chip consumption in India has increased by 61.44 per cent to $8.25 billion in the past two years. Consequently, high-purity water generation would require a large investment. For instance, one 200-milli metre semiconductor wafer that powers home computers requires 7,500 gallons of Ultrapure Water. The purity of Ultrapure Water is calculated in ppb (parts per billion); contrary to potable water, whose purity is limited to ppm (parts per million) or milligram per litre (mg/l). The purity of water required in the microelectronics industry can be very high and Ultrapure Water is the solution for this. Reverse Osmosis (RO), alone, is not sufficient to achieve such high level of purity. Along with RO, methods such as ultrafiltration, deionisation, and UV sanitisation are adopted to achieve the required specifications.
The line width of microelectronic devices has decreased to .2μm and is supposed to go down to nanometres. Under these conditions, even a particle of size half the line width will become a large impurity. So, the water used needs to be of very high purity, for instance, Ultrapure Water. Another issue is the quantity of water required. Modern fabs (semiconductor manufacturing facilities) and photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing can consume 1 to 3 million litres per day of Ultrapure Water. Every step of production requires a lot of water for cleaning purposes. Currently, most end users treat water to a level required for safe discharge to the environment or to be reused for gardening purposes. However, going forward, it is anticipated that zero liquid discharge systems to reclaim the effluent will be in demand, considering the evolution of discharge standards and water scarcity issues prevailing in India.
Policy Initiatives to Spur the Ultrapure Water Treatment MarketIn addition to its requirement in chip manufacturing, Ultrapure Water is also used in large quantities in solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing industries. PV is used to trap solar power and in a subtropical country like India there is abundant sunshine throughout the year. Considering the pollution from fuels, carbon emissions, and the need for an alternate source of energy, the Indian Government has unveiled a National Solar Mission – a US $19 billion plan to generate 20 GW power by 2020. Since then, many large and small companies have entered the solar PV market with products ranging from solar cells, to solar modules and panels.
The Government drafted the Semiconductor Policy in 2007 with an attempt to attract manufacturing companies to set up manufacturing facilities or ‘fabs’ in India, but the attempt was a failure, as the incentives provided were not sufficient. Moreover, the global downturn in 2008 triggered a slowdown across all key sectors, including semiconductors. The countries like China, Thailand and Singapore offered better options and infrastructure to chip-making companies and India had to depend on imports from these countries.
Presently, majority of the required semiconductors are imported from China, Taiwan, and Singapore where most fabs are located. Governments in these countries provide up to 50 per cent incentive in Capex expenditure. Contrary to this, there are no fabs in India; but a huge electronics market, which is slated to grow further due to the inevitable demand from the large youth segment in India. The cost involved in setting up a semiconductor manufacturing facility unit is about US $2-5 billion and the Indian Government has not provided enough incentives hitherto for multinational companies to venture in this market.
Market DevelopmentIn 2009, the global semiconductor market fell by 11 per cent, but in India it grew by 15.6 per cent. This reflects the stronghold of the electronics industry in India. But, there is a major hurdle in maintaining this growth trajectory. This is mainly because of the global water scarcity issue. With the increasing population of India, which is projected to reach 1.6 billion by 2025, the problem of water scarcity will be a major concern.
In India, the major use of Ultrapure Water is in electronics, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, lab water, etc. With the establishment of new fabs, the major application area can shift to semiconductor industries. At present, there are few companies in the Ultrapure Water market in India, while some others act as dealers. The key parameters used by end users to select a company, include:• The company’s past experience in supplying to similar end-user industries• Its water treatment process know-how• Its project management and execution• Its product-centric aspects such as price, reliability, energy efficiency, and low operational cost• After-sales service and complaint handling.
The purity of water required for the electronics industries does not have any standardisation. It entirely depends on the clients and the purity level varies for each project. As a result, the equipment package is also not customised. Most PV companies do the operations and maintenance (O&M) in-house, while some prefer to do it in a contract basis with the suppliers for 1-2 years, after which it is transferred to the end user. However, this trend is expected to change with majority end users outsourcing the O&M activities, as is increasingly seen in other industrial segments such as Power and Pharmaceuticals. With the advent of zero liquid discharge systems for water reclamations, and the growing complexity of operating the integrated water and effluent treatment systems, end users are keen on delegating the O&M activities to a third party.
ConclusionSustainable development in the Ultrapure Water market goes hand-in-hand with the electronics market. At present, the major application of Ultrapure Water is in the power industries, pharmaceuticals, and laboratory work. But, there can be a drastic change in the scenario with the establishment of new fabs and PV manufacturing units. Being a water-guzzling industry, the future market will orient towards the need to develop means to utilise the water more effectively and efficiently, as this sector also comes under the framework of National Water Mission. The various options available are:•  Recycle and reuse•  Water reduction strategies•  Increase in the efficiency of the treatment equipment• Develop alternate sources for water
The Indian Government is planning to launch a new semiconductor policy, in an attempt to fill the gaps and aiming to attain self-reliance in the electronics and semiconductor industries, apart from ensuring that these industries remain critical contributors to the country’s GDP. The Government released an ‘Expression of Interest’ for global and Indian companies to set up fabs. It is expected that there will be at least two fabs in India, each costing between $4-6 billion. Incentives of 20-25 per cent in Capex expenditure will be provided to the companies as reported by Government sources. Huge investment is required to set up fabs, which can be of the order of billions of dollars. The capital investment for water treatment facilities can go up to 15 per cent in fabs and 6 per cent in PV units. This makes it a risky initiative. But, keeping in view the Government policy and incentives by the Government, the risk can be minimised. Further, the returns from the investment are quite impressive. Presently, the companies are following CPCB, ISO 14001, ISO 18001, OHS, and SPCB standards to meet the wastewater treatment requirements. Hence, in the long run, the market for Ultrapure Water treatment has tremendous opportunities, as India becomes a hotspot for investments in electronics and semiconductor manufacturing.(Source: Frost & Sullivan)

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