Inside smartphones:
the nanotechnology

Gases and molecules on the infinitely small level have made possible
the exponential growth of the smartphone market on a global level.

yet essential

Despite being invisible, gases and molecules are essential to digital mobility and connectivity. They make possible the nanotechnology that has increased devices’ computing power and energy efficiency exponentially in the past decade.

As a global leader in gases, we work hand in hand with the electronics components manufacturers that are behind the smartphone revolution opening up countless new possibilities in how the world lives, works and connects. By mastering the infinitely small, we help deliver breakthroughs.

By using our products, the size of the smallest transistor in a semiconductor device fabrication node has been reduced from 65 nanometers to a mere 14 nanometers in the past seven years.

A nanometer is 10 000 times smaller than a hair
(1 nm = 1 billionth of a meter).

Almost300 million

smartphones manufactured in 2014 are made of Air Liquide molecules and materials, representing 20% of the worldwide production

Molecules and gases
making smartphones
ever more powerful

Our Group supplies semiconductors and flat screens manufacturers with ultra-pure carrier gases, nitrogen, argon, hydrogen, helium and oxygen. Particularly, nitrogen, is used to ensure that production equipment environments are ultra clean. Argon is used to depose ultra-thin films on silicon wafers, and hydrogen is used for annealing of the deposited films. In the newest and most complex manufacturing processes, Air Liquide designs and supplies molecules and materials, that enhance the structure of transistors, which are so tiny that 1 billion fit in a square centimeter.

Air Liquide products are all indispensable in the manufacture of the nano-transistors found in every integrated circuit from the camera sensor, the processors, the memory to the screen.


As the smartphone’s brain, the microprocessor contains billions of silicon transistors. These are made up of ultra-thin insulating, semi-conductive and conductive layers. This is where Air Liquide enters the picture: its molecules and electronic materials, bring silicon, metals and other elements for depositing these crucial layers and thus forming the microprocessor. These complex microchips contain thousands of miniature components that require advanced technologies, ultra-pure gases and electronic materials.

1 billion: the number of transistors on a microprocessor.

Flash memory

Our gases are also instrumental in creating more affordable and power efficient flash memory, which acts as smartphones’ hard-disk. The electronics materials improve the performance and efficiency of smartphones, which translates into devices that heat up less and batteries that last longer.

Camera sensor

The camera and the webcam rely on nano-transistors for each pixel, whose miniaturization allows more silicon transistors and therefore more pixels and an improvement in image definition.


Our gases and electronics materials are also instrumental in developing a new generation of energy-saving ultra high-definition and flexible screens and displays. In the same way that transistors underpin microprocessors, they also play a key role in controlling the intensity of light given off by pixels. The gases are used to form these transistors, making high-definition screens possible.

At the heart of
the mobility and
connectivity revolution

With 1 billion smartphones sold worldwide in 2013 and sales of 1.7 billion forecast in 2020, the market is in exponential growth. And this explosion is only the first step to the so-called Internet of Things: the world will have 26 billion connected objects by 2020 constituting an engine of growth for our molecules.

Connected objects will be the next boom in the electronics industry and a new technological revolution in our life. In this dynamic movement, the gases needed to manufacture microprocessors, and the molecules needed to make them, play a major role.

Breakthroughs are making technologies ever smaller and ever more powerful every day, from microprocessors, computing memory to flat panel displays and PV cells. This is opening up countless new possibilities in how the world lives, works and connects creating effective services and exchanges.


number of smartphone sales
forecast in 2020

To meet the growing needs of electronics manufacturers, our Group is building three to four ultra-pure nitrogen production units each year throughout the world, and innovates everyday to create new Electronics Materials for the electronics of the future.


connected objects by 2020