The Ministry of Industry and Trade has announced a tender for R&D and the organization until 2025 of the production of tantalum powder, which is needed for the production of electronics. Currently, raw tantalum is mined and exported in Russia. The cost of the tender is 300 million rubles, according to experts, this is enough for development work, but full implementation of the project may require additional investments. Among the likely contenders, they name Rosatom and specialized universities, noting the possibility of developing low-tonnage production on the basis of the latter.
“Kommersant” got acquainted with the terms of the tender of the Ministry of Industry and Trade for carrying out experimental design work (R&D) “Development of technology and launching the production of low-charge agglomerated and spherical capacitor-class tantalum powders” worth 300 million rubles. The information was published on the government procurement website on November 15.
From the documents it follows that the ministry plans to create in Russia by 2025 the production of tantalum powder for microelectronics, replacing the products of HCStarck GmbH (Germany), Hunan Kuntal Engineering Co. Ltd (PRC), Ningxia Corp. (PRC) and Ulba Metallurgical Plant (Kazakhstan). The Ministry of Industry and Trade notes that currently there are no domestic analogues of these products.
The ministry explained to Kommersant that tantalum powder is used in high-tech industries, in particular, for the production of highly reliable capacitors, in electronic and radio equipment units. “It is planned that as part of R&D, a technology for the production of tantalum powders will be developed, on the basis of which industrial production will be created, including using support mechanisms through the Ministry of Industry and Trade,” they added.
Tantalum is one of the most important materials for the microelectronics industry. Its properties allow the metal in the chip to be used as a barrier between silicon and copper. In the Russian Federation, the extraction of “raw tantalum” has been developed, which is sent for processing to third countries, after which it is supplied in powder form to factories that produce electronic components, explains Oleg Izumrudov, director of the Consortium of Russian Data Storage System Developers. Due to sanctions, the export of Russian metals, including tantalum, used in foreign electronics, fell by half (see Kommersant, September 22, 2022). Some companies, including Apple, have begun to abandon Russian raw materials. (see “Kommersant” dated August 4).
“For full import substitution, it is necessary to create the production of tantalum powder within the country, since foreign analogues have become several times more expensive after the start of the SVO,” emphasizes Oleg Izumrudov. At the same time, he believes that the project will be profitable only if finished products are exported, for example, to China, since the domestic market “does not need such volumes.” A Kommersant source in a microelectronics manufacturer estimates the annual volume of the tantalum capacitor market in Russia at 7 billion rubles.
According to Mr. Izumrudov, 300 million rubles. will be sufficient for development work. Kommersant's interlocutor among radio electronics developers clarifies that half of the funds will be spent on the purchase of equipment, for example, plasma particle spheritizers, atomaseirs, and attritors, some of which are produced in the Russian Federation, some - abroad.
In addition to microelectronics, tantalum is used in medicine, notes independent industrial expert Maxim Shaposhnikov. “The metal is not rejected by the human body, so joints printed with tantalum powder will heal easily,” he explains, adding that tantalum is also used in combination with niobium to make columbite. The latter alloy is “widely used in microelectronics and radio engineering.” Mr. Shaposhnikov considers Rosatom the most likely executor of the R&D project, but is confident that the project will require additional investments.
The general director of the Basis consortium, Arseny Brykin, believes that one of the specialized universities or institutes under the Russian Academy of Sciences can take up R&D. At the same time, according to the expert, production of the material may also be launched on the basis of universities in the future: “We have repeatedly raised the topic of developing micro-tonnage (up to 100 tons per year) in Russia. “Kommersant”) production of materials on the basis of universities or technology parks. They will be sufficient to meet the needs of Russian microelectronics manufacturers.”