Accudry® IPA Vapor Dryer System

Accudry IPA Vapor Dryer


Accudry® uses the difference between the surface tension of deionized water and isopropyl alcohol (IPA) vapor to produce a gradient that generates fast and effective drying of substrates. Also know as an IPA Dryer or Marangoni Dryer. When integrated with cleaning and rinsing, this patented tool can provide an environmentally friendly process for drying wafers, silicon, ICs, solar cells, fuel cells, MEMS, disk drives, and much more. The vapor dryer can process a variety of substrate types and sizes in numerous batch configurations. The Accudry can be produced as a stand alone unit or integrated into a wet processing station.


Accudry® IPA Vapor Dryer Brochure
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  • Surface tension ipa vapor drying yields substrates that are spotless and watermark-free.
  • Accudry has been designed for ease-of-use, operating the IPA vapor dryer is as simple as load, set, run.
  • With no moving parts and no mechanical stresses, the elimination of spin drying dramatically reduces wafer breakage as seen in spin rinser dryers.
  • Designed With Safety in Mind- Key safety interlocks, reliable and robust electronic components, IPA maintained at room temperature, emergency shut offs, intrinsically safe switches, critical components UL listed.
  • Flexible, Intuitive, Recipe Driven Software- MFC’s and all flows are under complete software control allowing for fully customized processes and run times. A 100 recipe capacity enables the flexibility to run many different substrates and materials in the same dryer.
  • Tank & Lid- Designed to customer specifications for optimized drying of any substrate material, size, and shape.
  • Patented Technology- System uses only 10ml of IPA per batch, no disposal required, unmatched cleanliness, no heated IPA, elimination of substrate touch points.
  • Maintainability- Access to subsystems front and back, quick access to electrical cabinet, separation of key subsystems, software includes maintenance menu and functions.

Cause of Watermarks

Watermarks are well known to be a major source of yield loss. Water marks form when dissolved, non-volatile material (often silica) is left behind as water droplets begin to evaporate. Typically this occurs during the transfer of substrates between cleaning and drying cycles or during the drying cycle itself. Watermarks are especially detrimental on bare silicon as it becomes oxidized in the presence of oxygen and water forms silicic acid or hydrated silica. Spin-rinse dryers have generally been effective in drying substrates but leave a residual film in the order of 0.1-0.2um after drying which determines the size of residual material on the surface. They are also ineffective in preventing watermarks especially on hydrophobic films like low k materials.

If the surface water film can be completely displaced thus also removing oxygen from the process, formation of watermarks can be effectively prevented. Water can be displaced by a liquid with lower surface tension, for example IPA (isopropyl alcohol) has a surface tension of 22 dynes/cm compared to water at 67 dynes/cm at 50C.


Drying based on surface tension gradient forces is an ultra-clean drying process. In this technique a volatile organic compound with lower surface tension than water is introduced in the vicinity of a substrate in the form of vapor as it is slowly withdrawn from the water. As the small quantity of alcohol vapor comes into contact with the continuously refreshed water meniscus, it absorbs in the water creating a surface tension gradient. The gradient causes the meniscus to partially contract and assume an apparent finite angle via a flow. This causes the thin water film to flow off the substrate leaving it dry (Fig 1). This flow also removes non-volatile contaminants and entrained particles.

Besides the elimination of watermarks on hydrophilic, hydrophobic and combination films, IPA vapor drying provides various other benefits. Drying does not require placing any mechanical stresses on the substrate. The technique works well on practically any flat substrate and no surfactants are necessary to change the substrate properties to enhance drying performance. Compared to traditional vapor dryers, the accudry consumes very little IPA because of its patented technology. When integrated with cleaning and rinsing, the Accudry can provide a one-step process in various applications such as fabrication and cleaning of ICs, solar cells, fuel cells, MEMS, etc.

Process Sequence

Step 1: Tank Fill

After the substrates are introduced the tank is filled with water to completely immerse them. The water temperature is maintained at ambient or slightly cooler and controlled by fab facilities. Depending on the flow rate of the water this step could take up to 30 seconds.

Step 2: Cascade water overflow

Substrates can be cleaned in dilute chemicals and subsequently rinsed in the tank to remove chemical impurities. The water is allowed to overflow into the overflow tank during the rinse cycle. The duration of this step depends on the amount of rinsing required.

Step 3: IPA / N2 Flow

IPA liquid is vaporized using heated N2 and deposited on the water as a fog through nozzles situated directly above the water for about 60 seconds.

Step 4: Slow Drain

Water is drained slowly from the tank through an outlet at the bottom thus ensuring a stable, repeatable, downward moving meniscus. The meniscus is independent of the surface contact angle or the pattern on the substrate thus ensuring a much broader process window for a wide variety of films. The Nitrogen and IPA are focused on the interface formed between the water and the substrate as the substrate emerges from water. The IPA assists in drying the wafer by the surface tension gradient effect (Fig 1). IPA is readily absorbed at the tip of the meniscus, where it lowers surface tension. The resulting surface tension gradient pulls water away from the substrate as the water continues to drain. The smooth rounded bath cavity helps prevent water from remaining in the chamber.

This is the most important process step in the sequence and can range from 120 to 300 seconds. The three main parameters that control drying efficiency are nitrogen flow, IPA concentration and water drain speed. The amount of IPA injected and flow rate needs to be controlled carefully and adequate to keep the thin layer of IPA on the surface independent of surface features. If less IPA vapor is used it will not produce enough surface tension reduction at the interface to remove residual water from the substrate surface. However, excess IPA vapor results in extra fluid on the substrate surface that cannot be evaporated within the process time to maintain the throughput. Higher IPA consumption also makes effluent management more expensive. Nitrogen flow, typically maintained at 50sccm, should be enough to carry IPA to the meniscus without breaking the film. Higher N2 flow results in quicker evaporation of the IPA reducing the surface tension gradient resulting in incomplete drying. A faster drain speed has a similar effect of exposing new substrate surface too quickly resulting in watermark formation and incomplete drying of high aspect ratio structures.

Step 5: Heated Gas Flow

In the final step of the process heated N2 gas is flowed to remove the remaining water and IPA film on the substrate surface.


In the past decade there have been many advances in wafer drying techniques to achieve watermark-free clean substrates. The surface tension gradient dryers have emerged as the dryer of choice to achieve watermark free performance on practically any type of substrate, be it hydrophobic, hydrophilic or a combination of both. Although single-wafer drying provides the benefit of replicating process conditions wafer-to-wafer, integrated batch dryers are still more efficient, have higher wafer outputs and consume less IPA. IMTEC has introduced the Accudry, a batch surface tension gradient dryer that will dry a variety of substrates including III-V Semiconductors, MEMS, solar Cells, fuel cells as well as ICs.

Accudry IPA Vapor Gradient Effect

Fig. 1 IPA concentration gradient induces surface tension gradient drying the wafer without watermarks.

Accudry PVDF Camber IPA Vapor Dryer

Fig 2 Cross section of the Accudry process chamber.

Key System Components

  • Dryer Cabinet- White PVCC Plastic shell (FM4910 Compliant), EPO safety shutdown, Foot switch for tank lid open/close.
  • Rinse/Dry Tank- PVDF rinse/dry tank with special fixturing to reduce contact areas on wafers. Includes N2 / IPA Dispersion manifold in automated lid. High and low flow drain valves are incorporated for precise draining.
  • PLC Control System- Graphical touchscreen interface allows for ease of use and continuous feedback of all major functions as well as a digital I/O interface for all functional components.
  • IPA/N2 Manifolds- Mass Flow Controllers are used for N2 and IPA flows allowing for different flow rates to be programmed into recipes
  • Stainless Steel IPA Canister- Electropolished Stainless IPA canister uses low pressure N2 to vaporize IPA

Available Chamber Sizes

  • Single/Dual 150mm Cassette
  • Single/Dual 200mm Cassette
  • Single/Dual 300mm Cassette
  • Custom Sizes Available
Accudry OEM IPA Vapor Dryer System

The ADS model is designed to fit within the same foot print as a Spin Rinser Dryer (SRD) making installation and retrofitting effortless.

Accudry OEM IPA Vapor Dryer System

The ADO model is designed for custom integration in to any OEM wet station.

Facilities Requirements

Accudry IPA
Vapor Dryer System
Clean Room
ISO Certified
Class 10 or better
200-240VAC Single Phase,
50-60Hz, 30 amps
30 gpm at 40 psi
IPA Supply
Grade Required
Process N2
50-600 lpm at 80 psi
100SCFM at 0.5-in
H2O, 4.0-in duct
IPA subsystem
20SCFM at 1-in static
pressure, 2-in duct
Plenum Drain
10GPM, 2.0-in
sch 80 PVC
System CDA


Accudry IPA
Vapor Dryer System
None attributable
to dryer
High Aspect
Ratio Drying
>20:1 Aspect Ratio
Particle Adders
<10 at 0.16µm
for Hydrophilic
<30 at 0.16µm for
Hydrophobic Surfaces
Wafer Breakage
0 Due to Process
>1500 Hours
<4 Hours