Writing nanomagnets: Investigation of new magnetic nanostructures fabricated by focussed electron and ion beams

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Physics and Astronomy


The objective of this fellowship is the investigation of new nanomagnetic materials fabricated by focussed electron and ion beam deposition (FEBID/FIBID), which has a huge technological interest for spintronic applications.
Nanomagnets are magnetic systems with nanometric dimensions, i.e. they are formed just by a few atoms along their length, width and/or thickness. Because their dimensions become of the order of the fundamental lengths governing their properties, they behave differently from macroscopic magnets, which has made possible their exploitation in many applications. In particular, the development of new types of nanomagnets is one of the key ingredients for the vast increase in computer performance during the last decades, since both storage and sensing part of hard disk drives are formed by this type of nanostructures.
In order to continue the exponential increase in computing performance, new technologies should involve greater miniaturisation, higher speeds and lower power consumption. Spintronics is the area of electronics which exploits new physical phenomena in nanomagnets to store and process information, and some spintronic devices such as STT-MRAMs or racetrack memories have been proposed as promising alternatives to CMOS technology. However, it is clear that in order to have a revolutionary impact in computing, spintronics needs of new ways to fabricate magnetic nanostructures. Standard processes used now to pattern magnetic systems at the nanoscale are based on thin film deposition using physical methods and lithography techniques using masks and resists; these top-down methods are facing their physical limits and RAM and CPU operations are fully dominated by transistor technology. It is therefore urgently needed to study more advanced fabrication techniques which use bottom-up approaches, where molecules serve as building blocks for the fabrication of functional nanomaterials.
The techniques to be used in this project, (FEBID/FIBID) are direct-writing nanolithography techniques based on the local chemical vapour deposition of gas molecules adsorbed on a substrate as a result of the interaction with high energy focussed beams of electrons or ions (SEM or FIB). These ultra-high resolution rapid processing techniques are extremely flexible, not needing either masks or resists. Specifically, they have a unique capability to fabricate complex three-dimensional nanostructures on any surface. The main drawback usually found when using these processes is that due to the poor decomposition efficiency of the molecules under focussed beams, the material deposited is a mixture of elements coming from the precursor gas molecules, having properties far from those pursued. Magnetic materials are however the exception to this negative scenario, since under the appropriate growth conditions and using carbonyls of 3d-ferromagnetic metals, pure magnetic materials can be directly deposited.
Due to the recent birth of these techniques, previous results using FEBID/FIBID of magnetic materials have been mostly devoted to study the purity of the deposits and to reproduce results previously obtained by standard patterning techniques. This project will go several steps further exploiting the unique capabilities of FE/IBID for the fabrication of magnetic nanostructures. By varying the deposition conditions, a new set of nanomagnetic materials will be studied, where the microstructure and composition will be controlled at the nanoscale. By combining gas precursors and focussed beams, different types of magnetic compounds will be fabricated, as well as multi-layered nanostructures. Moreover, the growth of complex three-dimensional nanomagnets will permit to create the first devices which can store and process magnetic information in all three directions. In order to characterise these systems, a combination of magnetic, structural and spectroscopy techniques together with magnetic imaging and simulations will be used.

Planned Impact

This fellowship consists of studying new magnetic materials and nanostructures using focussed electron and ion beam induced deposition (FEBID/FIBID), which are advanced direct-writing lithography techniques based on the local chemical vapour deposition of a gas adsorbed on a substrate by the interaction with a focused beam of electrons or ions.
The research carried out during the fellowship has a high technological impact potential, and might benefit all industry working in the field of electron microscopy and electron lithography. In particular, to Oxford Instruments (OI), one of the project partners. Moreover, the project will investigate new nanomagnetic systems for ultra-high density ultra-low power spintronic applications. There are many worldwide companies interested in spintronic applications for new data storage and processing devices, including Toshiba Reseach Europe Ltd., a partner of the project.
Furthermore, the use of mask-less, resist-free direct-write technique for deposition of nanostructures offer major advantages compared to standard UV/e-beam lithography in innovative bio-devices, which could be highly interested in these investigations.
The high potential of these investigations could result in a great benefit for society at long term. Moreover, this fellowship will offer the applicant an invaluable opportunity to develop state-of-the-art research in nanotechnology, creating his own research team and conduct independent research in UK. Finally, and in terms of training and development, graduate students supervised along the project will learn a large amount of techniques in nanoscience, which will make them very valuable employees for a wide range of high-technology industries, increasing the supply of high skilled workers in the UK.


10 25 50

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
EP/M008517/1 01/10/2014 30/06/2018 £599,875
EP/M008517/2 Transfer EP/M008517/1 01/07/2018 30/09/2019 £189,738
Description We have combined new ways to couple materials in order to transfer magnetic information vertically using multilayered systems, exploiting chiral interactions. New computational methods have been developed for the study 3D magnetic systems. First experiments showing controlled domain wall motion in 3D nanostructures have been developed.The fellowship has allowed me to consolidate as a pioneer worldwide in 3D nanomagnetism, having been invited to very prestigious conferences, writing review papers and forming part of program committees of international conferences in magnetism. The award has also led to further grants from different funding bodies and collaborations with industry.
Exploitation Route We have developed new methods to carry out advanced 3D nanofabrication, magneto-optics, magnetic microscopy using X-rays and electrons. We have performed pioneering work regarding nanofabrication and magneto-optical detection of 3D nanomagnets. We have written reviews that will influence some of the future work in nanomagnetism and spintronics.
Sectors Chemicals,Creative Economy,Electronics,Energy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Description Our results showing a new way to couple multilayered magnetic thin films exploiting chiral interactions have been highlighted in many websites. This work has been identified as very promising for future nanoelectronic systems in no-specialised forums. Our work on 3D nanofabrication is expected to impact future additive manufacturing in the coming years, and is currently being exploited in collaboration with a company for the fabrication of smart magnetic sensors.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

Description Supervising University of Cambridge undergraduates
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact I supervised University of Cambridge undergraduate students in Quantum Mechanics, Dynamics and Relativity and Electromagnetism courses.
Description Baylis Scholarship
Amount £500 (GBP)
Organisation University of Cambridge 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2017 
End 10/2018
Description Baylis Scholarship
Amount £500 (GBP)
Organisation University of Cambridge 
Department St John's College
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2018 
End 10/2019
Description IEEE Magnetics student scholarship for attending MML2019 Symposium
Amount £250 (GBP)
Organisation IEEE Magnetics Society 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United States
Start 06/2019 
End 06/2019
Description Investigation of tree-dimensional magneto-optical effects
Amount £70,000 (GBP)
Funding ID 2279377 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2019 
End 03/2023
Description NanoDTC Studentship
Amount £91,268 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2016 
End 10/2020
Description NanoDTC Travel Grant
Amount £3,000 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2016 
End 10/2020
Title Dark-Field MOKE 
Description A new magneto-optical method exploiting dark-field effects has been developed, for ultra-advanced nano-magnetometry of 3D objects. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The development of this technique has allowed us to perform the first experiments of domain wall motion in 3D nanostructures. 
URL https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acsnano.7b05105
Title Research data supporting "Layer-by-layer growth of complex-shaped three-dimensional nanostructures with focused electron beams" 
Description The electron beam scanning instructions created using the implementation of the algorithm described in the associated paper. The software can be accessed subject to collaboration. The files in the database can be imported in most FEI microscopes and give beam instructions for nanofabrication. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Development of algorithm for controlling 3D Focused Electron Beam Induced nanofabrication. This resulted in a paper "Layer-by-layer growth of complex-shaped three-dimensional nanostructures with focused electron beams" (DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.9b03565) 
URL https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/301044
Title Symmetry-Breaking Interlayer Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya Interactions in Synthetic Antiferromagnets 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Description SOLEIL synchrotron 
Organisation SOLEIL Synchrotron
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This collaboration has been established with Hermes Beamline of SOLEIL synchrotron, in order to investigate via X-ray photoelectron magnetic microscopy. Our team has fabricated 3D magnetic nanostructures, which have been sent to SOLEIL for characterisation.
Collaborator Contribution The group of Rachid Belkhou at SOLEIL are magnetic imaging the 3D nanostructures that we sent them, using their own time to use the HERMES beamline. This is essential for standard beamtime that we'll have in June-2018.
Impact For the moment, the main outcome of the collaboration is preliminary results regarding magnetic imaging of 3D nanostructures using photoelectron X-ray microscopy.
Start Year 2017
Title Focused Electron Beam Deposition pattern generator 
Description Software builds electron beam scanning patterns for deposition of 3D nanostructures with various materials. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact This software is expected to be published soon and will lead to several other publications. 
Title MOKE Image Analysis software 
Description A Matlab application for the analysis of MOKE (or other) image sequences is made available via the Matlab file-exchange. It allows basic contrast/brightness changes as well as automated background correction with image drift analysis. Output is to images, gifs or movies. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2019 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact Used by researchers in the group and downloaded by 20 external users. 
URL https://uk.mathworks.com/matlabcentral/fileexchange/72494-moke-image-analysis?s_tid=prof_contriblnk
Description JapaNano Symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Twelve students from NanoDTC programme traveled to Japan and had an intensive week of visiting Universities, research institutes, startups and industry. These include: Tokyo Tech, RIKEN, Toshiba, TCI, Lily Medtech, Elephantech and Axelspace. The goal was to foster cross-cultural connections and collaborations between Cambridge and Japanese institutions for cutting-edge industrial and academic nanotechnology research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Outreach article for the Conversation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Article on The Conversation: "2D spintronics has already transformed computing - now we're making it work in three dimensions"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://theconversation.com/2d-spintronics-has-already-transformed-computing-now-were-making-it-work-...
Description Outreach article on UoG website 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Outreach article at the University of Glasgow website after the publication of a paper on Nature Materials
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.gla.ac.uk/news/archiveofnews/2019/june/headline_649639_en.html