Free Access to Nanolithography & Supporting Processes, University of Bath

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Physics


We request continued funding for a previous successful EPSRC-funded Equipment Sharing Initiative to provide UK academic groups with free point-of-use access to electron beam nanolithography in the David Bullett Nanofabrication Facility at the University of Bath. Our scheme will focus on providing 'pump-priming' support for new research that is enabled by access to our nanofabrication tools, particularly work at the Physics/Engineering-Biology and Physics/Engineering-Chemistry interdisciplinary interfaces. Not only will we share our extensive design and process expertise with users, but we shall also provide training and support within a comprehensive package of services including nanolithography, wet & dry etching, thin film deposition and SEM/AFM imaging. We will actively seek opportunities to enhance the multi-disciplinary skills of early career users (postgraduate and post-doctoral researchers) whenever possible. We also propose to purchase a new complementary direct-write laser lithography tool that will allow us to offer users a quicker and more versatile service with unique new features for advanced prototyping (e.g., 3D lithography in thick photoresist and/or on non-planar substrates).

Planned Impact

This proposal will provide UK academic researchers with free-at-source access to nanoscale fabrication tools available at Bath. Users will receive direct access to our electron beam lithography and supporting processes and also to expert advice, assistance and training. Our access scheme is particularly focused on providing 'pump-priming' support for emerging new research areas where there is limited awareness of, or access to, nanofabrication tools. It builds on the experience gained during our previous equipment access grant, which found a strong need for this type of provision at the Physics/Engineering-Biology and Physics/Engineering-Chemistry interdisciplinary interfaces.

Since the aim of this proposal is to provide a service to a broad range of research groups within the UK, its economic and societal beneficiaries will, in part, reflect those of its users. Therefore the impact of the previous access grant provides a basis for assessing the likely beneficiaries of the current proposal.

During the previous grant an advertising campaign targeted individual research groups via the EPSRC website in order to identify those working on multi-disciplinary topics where access to high resolution lithography would be relevant. This approach was successful in attracting new users with whom we had no prior contact. In particular this led to several projects at the physics/life sciences interface (e.g., surface plasmon resonance image of neural network activity, EBID deposition of diamond-like carbon for cell growth, arrays of photonic crystals for bioimaging). Thus new research topics were enabled and facilitated. Furthermore, as a result of the access scheme, Bath scientists have been exposed to new research problems through working with visiting users and, in some cases, this has led to new collaborative relationships.

Our established track record, expertise and understanding of the key components of a successful access scheme mean that the expected impact of the current proposal should exceed that already demonstrated in the previous grant. In addition we will encourage the active participation of early career users and thus significantly enhance their multi-disciplinary skills through exposure to nanofabrication techniques and via training on state-of-the-art equipment.

The Technology Strategy Board has recently published a report highlighting the vital technologies that underpin UK innovation (TSB, 'Enabling Technologies Strategy 2012-2015', 2012). For the four enabling technologies identified, 'Nanotechnologies will have a huge underpinning effect across most of these technology areas [advanced materials; biosciences; electronics, sensors and photonics; and information and communication technology (ICT)], particularly in the healthcare and life sciences sectors.' Within the biosciences, the demand for nano-enabled products in 2016 was estimated to be $55.7bn.

Two of the illustrative case studies described in the case for support concern the nanofabrication of graphene structures. The broad field of electronics, estimated to range in value from $1 to $1.5 trillion, is one of several markets that will be influenced by this new material (Industrial Economics and Knowledge Center (IEK); The rapid pump-priming fabrication capability that is at the heart of this proposal will accelerate the characterisation of this material and the demonstration of novel device configurations.

The overwhelming argument for equipment access grants is to maximise the use of publicly funded resources, thus reducing the cost of research to the taxpayer and the impact on the environment by avoiding the unnecessary duplication of equipment. This access grant will increase the number of users and processes involved in the Bath nanofabrication facility. This will benefit both external (academic and industrial) and internal users by lowering volume-related costs, widening expertise and enhancing support facilities.


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Description This support is funding an access scheme for external academics to come and use equipment in our Nanofabrication Facility. Hence we are enabling research in other UK academic groups by providing processing expertise and access to equipment. We are currently involved in a number of projects ranging from catalysis to integrated photonics.
Exploitation Route We are particularly trying to reach academics working at the interface between physics and biology/life sciences to make use of our access scheme as this is an area where awareness of nanofabrication technology currently tends to be limited. We have run e-mail and paper advertising campaigns targeted at these groups.
Sectors Electronics,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

Description The project has contributed towards the development of humidity sensors which are being used in artwork conservation projects throughout Europe. It is also contributing to the development of custom Hall effect and pressure sensors for applications in remote sensing and security. We have become involved in work preparing bespoke Ti-coated materials for researchers in Bristol Dental School. Collaborative work continues with academics at other GW4 research Universities (Bristol, Cardiff & Exeter) within the bounds of an agreed GW4 Access Scheme to provide access to bespoke equipment and support one another in the event of equipment down time. As a consequence of this Access Scheme we have also significantly grown our work for external commercial users. In particular Teratech Components Ltd in Didcot routinely use our Oxford ICP1000 dry etching system to pattern their GaAs structures.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics,Environment,Healthcare,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

Description GW4 Nanofabrication Facility Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The first GW4 Nanofabrication Workshop was hosted by Bath on 10th July 2017 to raise awareness of the Nanofabrication facilities at the GW4 universities and explore new cooperative activities between them. Over 50 academics, PhD students and post-docs from Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter attended the workshop which was funded by an EPSRC access grant. The event started with a keynote lecture by Dr Andy Sellars, Chief Business Development Officer for the new Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult in Cardiff. This was followed by presentations from the Managers of the four institutional nanofabrication facilities, describing their equipment infrastructure and capabilities. In addition to short talks and posters about nanofabrication-enabled research from PhD students, research staff and academics, there were also discussions on ways to enable the sharing of equipment and expertise between facilities, and joint equipment bids were explored.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017