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A Chinese Company Mastered the Manufacture of Tungsten Targets

Semiconductor large-scale integrated circuits (chips) are the world's most advanced manufacturing technology. For a long time, China has been lagging behind developed countries in this field. The world's most advanced chip technology has been monopolized by western countries. China's annual chip import costs have surpassed crude oil, and it has to withstand the risk of Americans' restrictions and prohibitions from time to time.

It is well known that China is the world’s largest producer of mobile phones and computers. Although 25 percent of the world’s mobile phones are made by China. China is highly dependent on foreign tech in its semiconductor industry, importing 90 percent of its chips in order to power the fast-growing electronic industry. The inner problem is that China hasn’t master the advanced technology of manufacturing the chips. What’s more, the recent ZTE event has remind Chinese that the importance of breaking through the monopoly on the chips from the United States. 

Thin film science is a very important area in the development and manufacture of semiconductor devices. A thin transparent conductive film coated on the functional layer of a semiconductor chip with precision equipment. This layer is less than one-fifth of the diameter of a hair to achieve the physicochemical properties of the semiconductor metal. They are what called thin films. In the metallization process of chip manufacturing, tungsten oxide thin film is a widely studied functional material, mainly used as an integrated circuit diffusion barrier layer, a bonding layer, and a large integrated circuit memory electrode. 

The key to a plated film is what is called a "target." The performance of the target directly affects the performance of the film, which affects the performance and benefits of the chip manufacturing. Sputtering is one of the main techniques for preparing thin film materials. It bombards the target by high-speed moving ions, and the generated atoms are emitted to accumulate on the surface of the substrate to form a coating. The bombarded solid is the raw material for depositing the thin film by sputtering. This raw material is called a sputtering target. This is an important matrix for the tungsten oxide film to achieve its functional transition in semiconductor devices.

Due to its high melting point, tungsten targets are mainly prepared by powder metallurgy methods. For tungsten targets used in chip manufacturing, only the United States, Japan and other countries have mastered the relevant manufacturing technologies. However, last year, the CCTV’s documentary "Amazing China" filmed a company in Ningbo, China achieved breakthroughs in tungsten targets. It ended the history that metal targets must rely on imports, and even make China reaching a leading position in the field of tungsten targets.

It has a strict requirement for the purity Yg6 Carbide Tips of tungsten targets in the semiconductor integrated circuits. Generally, the purity of targets is required to be above 99.999%. At the same time, the compactness of the target has an important influence on the coating process and the performance of the film. The density of the target does not only affect the deposition rate during sputtering, the density of the sputtered film particles and the discharge phenomenon, but also affects the electrical and chemical properties of the film. In short, the denser the target, the lower the density of the sputtered film particles, the weaker the discharge phenomenon, and the better the performance of the film.

It is told that the leader of this Chinese company is a returnee entrepreneur. For high-purity tungsten targets, the manufacturing technology cemented carbide required is the most advanced in the world. However, this Chinese team broke through the technical difficulties in the manufacturing of high-purity tungsten, completely broke the western monopoly, and no longer has to rely on exports.

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How does Tungsten Make Fracture Mechanics in Soviet Union Fall Behind America?

How does tungsten make the fracture mechanics in Soviet Union lag behind the US about a decade? As they are on par with each other on intercontinental missiles and aerospace technology, in low-stress fracture mechanics Soviet Union has been behind the United States for about ten years.

In the early 1950s, Western researchers rapidly developed fracture mechanics to explore the problems of low-stress fractures. However, during the same period, this discipline did not move in the Soviet Union. After almost a decade, fracture mechanics just appeared in Soviet technology books and journals, far behind America.

How to explain the advanced rocketry with the corresponding lagging fracture mechanics of Soviet Union? We tested the stress corrosion cracking of 37 steel and 28 steel, in order to uncover the "answer" of this question.

37 steel is a new steel grade used to make ultra-high-strength steel for engine casings. It is very similar to some kinds of US missile steels. Using this steel to make thin-walled solid fuel engine casing, low stress fracture occurred many times during the pressure test, which became a difficult problem. The results of testing 37 steel prove this steel is very sensitive to water stress corrosion cracking.

28 steel is an ultra-high-strength steel used to make other engine casings, which is imitation of Soviet Union steel. Compared with 37 steel, 28 steel has better resistance to low stress fracture under same strength level. Its water resistance stress corrosion cracking cemented carbide blade characteristic is much higher than 37 steel. The comparison of steel grades can be seen as a comparison of ultra-high strength steels in the United States and the Soviet Union. It shows that the Soviet steel grades have great advantages in resistance to stress corrosion cracking. This steel is used in the manufacture of high-pressure welded containers and has never experienced low-stress blasting.

The above test results can be explained that, the Soviet Union may entirely use the missile steel systems that are less prone to low-stress fractures, thus crossing a series of complicated technology gaps and successfully developed their rocket. Naturally, there is no need for them to carry out such a large-scale research on fracture mechanics in the academic field as in the United States.

Further comparison of the chemical Cemented Carbide Cutting Tool composition of the U.S. and Soviet series of ultra-high strength steels, it reveals that each steel grade in the Soviet Union contains tungsten, and its content ranges from 1.0 to 2.9%. But none of the ultra-high-strength structural steels developed in the United States contain tungsten. The United States developed tungsten-free steel because they lack the source of tungsten. On the contrary, during the same historical period, the Sino-Soviet formed an alliance in 20th century, and the Soviet Union relied on China's abundant resources to develop a series of ultra-high-strength structural steels containing tungsten.

Hydrogen embrittlement and stress corrosion of metallic materials are very complex and interdisciplinary fracture problems. Studies have shown that the alloyed element of tungsten can change the phase transformation behavior of steel during heat treatment, ensuring high strength and avoiding hydrogen embrittlement sensitivity, making the steel does not fracture at low stress.

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Muted Demand Puts Pressure on Chinese Tungsten Prices

Analysis of latest tungsten market from ChinaTungsten Online

Chinese tungsten prices continue to be stable in the week under muted demand in the off season. Customers are reluctant tungsten carbide bars to get back to the market and try to force offers down with tungsten raw material supply resumed. “There is excess of material in the market and insiders raise risk aversion,” a trader said. 

Trading volumes for tungsten concentrate are thin as smelters remain low buying interests. More companies are willing to make sales without cutting profits, supported by environmental checks easing imbalanced supply and demand. Tungsten concentrate prices now hover around $17,692.00 per tonne.

Ammonium paratungstate (APT) supply from China resumes following the end of environmental-related suspensions in Jiangxi, China, leading prices decline and quiet trading activity. Manufacturers drop offer levels in line with guide prices released by large companies. 

The weakness in tungsten powder market puts pressure on cemented carbide blade downstream alloy and product companies that have fewer orders. Customers appear unwilling to trade in a weakening market and prices tend to decline.

Prices of tungsten products on Aug. 02, 2018

Picture of tungsten carbide powder

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