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A ‘greener’ more sustainable route to trimethylgallium

By Gerald Ondrey |

Last month, the Precious Metals Chemistry business unit of Umicore AG & Co. KG (Hanau-Wolfgang, Germany; www.pmc.umicore.com) inaugurated its production unit for making trimethylgallium (TMGa) and triethylgallium (TEGa). The new facility uses a new, patented production process to make these metal-organic precursors. Compared to conventional methods, Umicore’s process requires two less synthesis steps, minimizes hazardous side streams and achieves nearly quanitative yields (based on Ga). TMGa is a colorless liquid with very high vapor pressure that boils at low temperatures. It is used in the semiconductor industry, where it evaporates in closed systems to deposit onto a substrate Ga-containing semiconductor layer (for example, GaN used in light-emitting diodes). Up to now, the two main routes for making TMGa are alkylation of GaCl3 with either a Grignard reagent, or with trimethylaluminum (TMA), explains Oliver Briel, director of Global Business Electronics. The Grignard route suffers from large volumes of organic solvents needed, and the fact that oxygen is present in the reaction mixture (because of the ether used), which makes it difficult to reach O2 levels below 1 ppm. As a result, yields are limited, while generating…
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