The fundamentals of digitalization

Overview

Smartphones, tablets, etc. are now a normal part of everyday life. But what exactly is inside these devices that makes each new generation even more powerful than the previous one?

Publish Date

05 JUL 2020

Author

Kai Beckmann

The fundamentals of digitalization 
 
Smartphones, tablets, etc. are now a normal part of everyday life. But what exactly is inside these devices that makes each new generation even more powerful than the previous one? Part of the answer lies in our solutions for the electronics and semiconductor industries. The products from our EMD Performance Materials business are among the hidden drivers of the digital transformation. 
 
Progress is taken for granted 
 
With the integration of Versum Materials and Intermolecular and the go-live of our new integrated organization in early June, our EMD Performance Materials business is focusing even more strongly on the market for electronic materials and digital technologies. Why? Because digitalization also relies on the use of innovative specialty chemicals. The rapid progress in the field of information technology has meanwhile become a matter of course for all of us. We regard it as a law of nature that regular innovations make our lives a little smarter and more comfortable each and every day. 
 
Our small, permanent digital companions, such as smartphones, tablets and smartwatches, have become a hub for communication with other people, for banking, online shopping, photo albums, travel planning, and much more. Many of our manufacturing units are exclusively using robots, we’re using smart voice assistants as they were the most natural thing in the world, and we firmly believe that self-driving cars will be taking us from A to B in the not too distant future while we work online on our notebooks in the back seat or comfortably stream a video. While it might be argued that many of these examples are not really necessary, we should not forget the breakthroughs in areas such as medicine, smart energy systems and education. Without digitalization, we would not be able to solve the global challenges facing this planet with its more than 7.7 billion inhabitants. 

Of course, thanks to excellent marketing and advertising, tech companies such as Apple, Google or Intel are generally seen as the drivers of digital change. Let’s not forget that smartphones and computers are end products and consist of countless highly complex components whose continuous development often remains hidden. The same applies to the microchips that form the core of these devices.  
 
If we take smartphones as an example, at the very beginning of a new product generation, there are always the materials that are needed to manufacture the core elements of the device, such as the processor or the memory. Probably very few people know that the electronics and semiconductor industry is highly dependent on innovative specialty chemicals and that these are becoming increasingly important. In the semiconductor industry, more and more of the components in modern chips are approaching atomic dimensions. At this level, many previously proven solutions no longer work and must be replaced by new material systems, some of which are extremely complex. But it's worth it, because without innovations in the materials required to manufacture microchips or even displays, a smartphone at the 1980 level of technology would, according to the calculations by Applied Materials, be 14 meters high today, would consume 600 kW of electricity and would cost over US$100 million.  
 
 
Hidden champion of digitalization  
 
Our EMD Performance Materials business is one of the leading suppliers of specialty chemicals for the electronics industry. We work with the world's largest technology companies because our electronic chemicals are the foundation for the development of new generations of semiconductors and displays. With the successful acquisition and integration of Versum Materials, we have once again significantly expanded our EMD Performance Materials portfolio.  
 
The manufacturing process for semiconductor devices, for example, is complex and involves numerous steps, including doping, patterning, deposition, planarization, etching, cleaning, and packaging of the integrated circuits. Each of these process steps requires specialty chemicals, such as high-performance dielectrics, materials for selective atomic layer deposition or photoresists.  
 
A portfolio with a future 
 
I won’t go into all the technical details here. What I am getting at is: We have the right solutions, especially for the critical production steps. No other company offers such a broad range of materials for semiconductor manufacturing as we do at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. In addition to chemicals, our EMD Performance Materials portfolio also includes delivery systems, special containers and services. Our range of services is rounded off by our comprehensive materials research and analysis capacities, which we strengthened last year, particularly through the acquisition and integration of Intermolecular.  
 
Our EMD Performance Materials business is thus predestined to meet the steadily increasing demand for ever smaller, faster and more energy-efficient electronics in the wake of digitalization and growing data volumes. Major technology trends such as AI, IoT or Big Data offer promising long-term growth prospects. We’re not focusing our strategy on just one single promising growth market. Our ambition is to advance digital living and thus technical progress as a whole with our products and solutions. 

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