The inventor of Atomic Layer Deposition receives the Millennium Technology Prize 2018
The Millennium Technology Prize is a Finnish one-million-euro award awarded by Technology Academy Finland every second year in honour of a pioneering technological innovation that improves people’s quality of life and promotes sustainable development.
The President of the Republic of Finland Mr Sauli Niinistö presented the eighth Millennium Technology Prize in Helsinki yesterday to Dr Tuomo Suntola, the inventor of Atomic Layer Deposition.
Two themes were mentioned repeatedly in the discussions yesterday during the Millennium Technology Prize ceremony in Helsinki: Invisible technology and persistence.
ALD – The invisible advantage
Everybody at yesterday’s award ceremony seemed to agree that Technology Academy Finland made a great choice by lifting to the limelight a hidden innovation that has improved our lives in so many ways. ALD applications are everywhere around us but very few people know about them. Many people at the Award Gala were surprised to hear for the first time about a technology that has so many everyday applications.
As Academy Professor Päivi Törmä, Chair of the Millennium Technology Prize Selection Committee, put it:
“The ALD method is a textbook example of a technology that is hidden from users but is nevertheless vital for visible development. ALD has also made the ownership of information technology more democratic, thereby contributing to the wider access to information and communication.”
A 50-year journey from theory to industrial production
The winner, Dr Tuomo Suntola, invented Atomic Layer Deposition, or Atomic Layer Epitaxy as it was first called, on the 1970’s. The first application was electroluminescence, and the plan was to create a totally new kind of durable display.
In the following ten or so years, the idea was taken from research labs to production. The knowledge of Mr Suntola and many others and many more innovations were required before the production could start. The first industrial ALD equipment had to be built, production planned, processes refined. The first products and supporting electronics had to be designed.
The production of the electroluminescent displays, the first industrial ALD products in the world, started in the middle of the 1980’s in the premises that are today the Beneq factory. This is why we call our factory the Home of ALD. The latest generation of the same EL displays are still being built in the same place, since 2012 under Beneq’s Lumineq display brand.
From a Finnish innovation to a global technology
Tuomo Suntola saw also other application areas for Atomic Layer Deposition already in the early days, and for years he tried selling the idea to large international companies without success. It took a couple of decades before ALD was adopted by the semiconductor manufacturers. The technology began spreading in the electronics industry worldwide in the early 2000s. After that, there has been no stopping of the expansion of the ALD technology.
Today, almost 50 years after the invention of Tuomo Suntola, we have only seen the beginning of industrial ALD. Not a day goes by in the world of Atomic Layer Deposition without a new ALD recipe, process invention or coating improvement. New ALD application areas pop up all the time. The latest hot areas have been OLED encapsulation, safety and durability of Li-Ion batteries, anti-corrosion barriers for electronics components and wafer-based ALD applications in the so called More than Moore markets, such as MEMS, RF and power semiconductor components.
TAF, Technology Academy Finland, has also made an excellent video about Dr Suntola, his invention and the benefits of ALD, which we think everybody should watch.
The ALD community congratulates Dr Suntola!
What a great story of how ground-breaking research turns into viable industrial products enabling everyday life improvement! It may take some, but with a vision of dedicated people and persistent execution you will eventually get there. We are proud to be part of the story. The future growth of Beneq is built on a great legacy.
Beneq congratulates Dr Suntola for the Millennium Technology Prize and thanks for his pioneering work on behalf of the whole ALD community.