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Products and applications of Sulfur Hexafluoride

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Sulfur Hexafluoride - Part 1

Sulfur Hexafluoride

Sulfur Hexafluoride (SF6, or Sulphur Hexafluoride) is a color- and odorless gas which is neither flammable nor toxic. The sublimation point of SF6 is at -63,8 °C (209,3 K) and its density amounts to 6,180 kg/m³ at 15 °C / 1000 mbar. The SF6 Lewis structure features six Fluorine atoms bound to a central Sulfur atom symmetrically, yielding the SF6 molecular geometry to be octahedral. In addition, the Sulfur Hexafluoride molar mass of 146,06 g/mol reflects the high density of Sulfur Hexafluoride gas, which in consequence allows to pitch the voice down upon inhalation but also carries the risk of asphyxiation at higher concentrations.

Sulfur Hexafluoride - Part 2


As Sulfur Hexafluoride is only found in traces in earth’s atmosphere, for an economical production SF6 is exclusively produced artificially. Although it can be prepared from Cobalt(III) Fluoride and Sulfur Tetrafluoride (utilizing Bromine), for a large-scale industrial production SF6 is synthesized from elemental Sulfur and Fluorine, respectively. Co-created Sulfur Fluorides (such as S2F10) during the synthesis are filtered out afterwards, which subsequently yields SF6 of technical grade purity (99,9 %).

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High Purity Sulfur Hexafluoride

Sulfur Hexafluoride - Part 3


While technical grade Sulfur Hexafluoride is mainly used as insulator in high-voltage circuits, high purity SF6 is utilized in two main plasma treatment processes in the semiconductor industry: SF6 plasma etch of wafers and SF6 plasma cleaning of vacuum chambers. The high Fluorine fraction per molecule (see the Sulfur Hexafluoride formula, SF6) is exploited in different SF6 etch processes, such as plasma etching or Deep Reactive Ion Etching (DRIE) processes. Similar to the SF6 etching, Sulfur Hexafluoride serves as an effective molecule in the cleaning process of the vacuum chambers via SF6 plasma. Below the most prevalent examples for such an SF6 plasma treatment are depicted.

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Sulfur Hexafluoride - Etching

Sulfur Hexafluoride - Cleaning

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