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Groundbreaking proprietary liquid sample inspection technology meets cross-industry application demands

Sandy Du, DIGITIMES, Taipei 0

Since the invention of semiconductors half a century ago, they have become an integral part of our lives. Be it smartphones or automobiles, everything runs on semiconductor chips. As semiconductor architecture becomes more advanced, companies are investing heavily on research to improve their yields. Throughout it all, ensuring the quality of the slurries used for silicon wafer polishing is a major challenge for manufacturers. To solve this issue, FlowVIEW Tek has introduced its FlowVIEW AOI total liquid sample solution, which aims to accelerate the industrial transition towards higher-end architectures.

The optical microscope, which has existed for more than a century, has three major problems in the context of nanotechnology that remain difficult to solve today. First, samples smaller than 200 nm cannot be observed under optical microscopes. Second, optical microscopes are affected by interference caused by nanobubbles, resulting in degradation of the optical signal and inaccurate measurements. Third, optical microscopy readings of small particles lack precision, which makes them unfit for the latest cutting-edge architectures. As a result, the semiconductor, energy, battery, biomedical, and cosmetic industries are all gradually switching to electron microscopes. However, electron microscopes have their own limitations when dealing with liquid samples. As samples need to be vacuum suspended, this means they cannot be observed in their original state, and they need to be dried. Both of these restrictions have driven companies to search for better solutions.

FlowVIEW general manager Kyle Lee said that the vacuum environment that electron microscopes samples are placed in will cause the liquid samples to dry out and produce distorted images. Therefore, liquid samples have to go through a series of complex pre-processing steps including drying, freezing, and slicing just to barely keep the sample structure from collapsing. Even after taking all these measures, it is still impossible to directly observe the actual appearance of liquid samples. To overcome this pain point, FlowVIEW combines its three core technologies - In-situ Liquid Microscopy, Liquid Automation, and AI Image Processing - to form the Flow AOI total liquid sample solution. This solution uses an exclusive microfluidic chip system to create an atmospheric environment in the vacuum chamber of an electron microscope that preserves the original appearance of the liquid samples. It also integrates high-end AI image analysis software to provide raw, nano-level image results with the highest resolution available in the industry (resolution at 160,000x magnification).

Exclusive patented technology raises the bar for global nanoscale inspection instruments

FlowVIEW, a spin-off of the Center for Measurement Standards under the Industrial Technology Research Institute, was founded in 2017. The company aims to use exclusive patented technology to overcome traditional liquid material inspection restrictions to meet the demands for nanoscale liquid inspections in various fields. Since its inception, the company has received many awards such as the Computex d&i Award and the Audi Innovation Award. It was also a finalist for the Skydeck Berkeley program in 2019. The company has received industry recognition because its solution allows for an accurate observation of liquid materials in their original state. Combined with other exclusive technologies, the solution is able to provide a fully automated smart analysis service for nanoscale liquid materials that meets the needs of many industrial applications.

According to Kyle, FlowVIEW's Flow AOI total liquid sample solution is made up of the Aquarius Starter Kit, AI Particle Imager, and In-line Multi-Channel Liquid Particle Inspection System. The most notable selling point of the Aquarius Starter Kit is that it allows liquid samples to skip conventional pre-processing since it can prepare liquid samples for electron microscopes in just 30 seconds; in addition, it is compatible with samples as small as 7nm, making it ideal for the semiconductor, energy, battery, biomedical, and cosmetic industries.

As for the AI Particle Imager, it is currently the only AI image optical microfluidic total solution in Taiwan. The Imager overhauls traditional reliance on interpretation through indirect measurements to directly give readouts of accurate first-hand data. It is capable of identifying translucent particles, bubbles with irregular contours, microbial species, among others, and thus can be used in applications such as LCD panel factory etching solution analysis, translucent material accumulation analysis, and microbial species identification in factory wastewater. It can analyze more than 100,000 pieces of data in one minute, making it suitable for applications in the environmental engineering, biomedical, pharmaceutical, semiconductor, energy, and battery industries. Lastly, the In-line Multi-channel Liquid Particle Inspection System is a tailor-made solution for the semiconductor, biomedicine, and cosmetics industry. It can be directly integrated into the production line to provide automatic multi-point analysis and a 24-hour real-time data feed to accurately monitor changes in the number of micro- and nano-particles, track the status of the water quality and treatment tank system, and improve the efficiency of the cleaning process.

Thanks to its unique arsenal of exclusive world-leading technology, FlowVIEW has established close relationships with semiconductor and chemical companies in Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Europe, and the United States, and the company's customer base is rapidly growing. FlowVIEW has also expanded its presence in Taiwan with an office at TTA South as the company plans to continue working with its customer base in Taiwan while accessing the international markets. The company aims to become the leading brand in nano-biosafety testing instruments and hopes to set new standards for nano-detection instruments in the EU and the US in the coming years.

Aquarius Starter kit FlowVIEW Tek

Aquarius Starter kit
Photo: FlowVIEW

(Editor's note: The original article was published in TTA Magazine Issue 9. Read more startup stories in TTA Magazines.)

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