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Startup capital is one of the biggest challenges for new businesses. Bank financing is hard to get for businesses without established income streams, and venture capital targets a narrow segment of high growth enterprises. Someone starting a small restaurant or buying tools to enter a trade is unlikely to catch Paul Allen's eye.
In the US, most small businesses are self-financed, using the owner's savings, credit cards, or loans from family members. None of these sources are available for small farmers, merchants, and craftspeople in the developing world. Without capital, their businesses can't invest and can't grow.
Yet the amounts required are tiny by Western standards. Muhammad Yunus's first loan was for $27, to a group of weavers in Bangladesh. They used the money to buy raw materials, repaid the loan in full and on time, and microlending was born. This week, Yunus and the Grameen Bank won the Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts to create economic and social development from below." As the Nobel citation states, "Lasting peace can not be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Micro-credit is one such means."
It seems obvious when you think about it... Metryx, a UK-based metrology company, characterizes wafers by measuring their mass. They claim that their technology is sensitive enough to detect a 2 Angstrom layer of TaN. (Thickness limits are lower for more dense films, higher for less dense films.) Even more interesting, Liam Cunnane, Technology Director for North America, points out that most parameters that affect uniformity also affect deposition rate. A nonuniform film is likely to weigh more (or less) than a uniform one. An ALD film deposited over topography is likely to weigh more than a blanket deposition. And of course mass is an inherently nondestructive measurement, too. It's too early to say whether Metryx answers the questions that fabs are asking, but they've certainly piqued my interest.
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