Daikin Industries, a Japanese air conditioning company, has found a way to produce a very important chip-making chemical by using raw materials from Mexico. This has the potential to reduce the dependence on China for the same.
When semiconductors are etched, the main chemical used is hydrofluoric acid, which is also a compound that is the principal chemical in hydrofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerants. Currently, Japan imports a whopping 90% of hydrofluoric acid-making material from China.
Daikin has been successful in creating a process by which it can produce hydrofluoric acid from fluorite minerals from Mexico. However, Mexican fluorite minerals are less pure than Chinese fluorite. With this breakthrough, the supply chain for this acid is expected to undergo diversification.
When sulfuric acid is added to fluorite, the resultant chemical compound created is Hydrofluoric acid. Currently, 7 million tons of fluorite is produced globally each year of which China accounts for 60% of the supply output.
Reports say Mexico has greater fluorite reserves compared to China, but these reserves also contain arsenic. Daikin has the technology to overcome this hurdle with the solidification of arsenic and discarding it from the fluorite mineral.
This process has extra steps and it is expected that it will double the cost of hydrofluoric acid production compared with Chinese fluorite. Daikin says that it will delve into cost-cutting methods after the adaption of this new process.
Daikin has fluorite processing plants located in China that produce hydrofluoric acid which is thereby sold to chipmakers. The company says that it wants to construct a fluorochemicals plant in Japan itself when it starts to import fluorite from Mexico. Possible sites for the plant are being explored and surveyed. This investment is going to cost Daikin around tens of billions of yen. Daikin plans to partner with a semiconductor giant company for this project after monitoring market conditions.