Electronics industry

Using Tantalum and Niobium in Electronics.



Electronics is the largest market for tantalum, consuming about 60% of the world's production. The largest single application is in electronic capacitors, where tantalum's ability to form stable oxide films creates highly efficient, highly reliable and environmentally versatile components. In the year 2000, over 2 million pounds of tantalum was employed in over 20 billion tantalum capacitors serving automotive, communications, computers, consumer, defense, medical and other electronics.

Driven by continuous reductions in cost and device size and performance improvements, copper is beginning to replace aluminum for use as interconnects in next generation semiconductors. To prevent copper from migrating through the device and "poisoning" the transistors, a diffusion barrier between the interconnects and the device is necessary. Tantalum and tantalum nitride, produced by sputtering of pure tantalum in the presence of nitrogen, are becoming the established barrier materials for the new copper semiconductors.

Tantalum and Niobium are frequently employed in the manufacture of hard disk drives and similar storage devices. Thin films of tantalum or niobium are employed in the disks themselves, and in the thin film read-write heads. These thin films are most commonly created by Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD).