Bid for new Electron-Beam Lithography Tool

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: College of Science and Engineering


The last fifty years have seen spectacular progress in the ability to assemble materials with a precision of nanometers (a few atoms across). This nanofabrication ability is built upon the twin pillars of lithography and pattern transfer. A whole range of tools are used for pattern transfer. Lithography is a photographic process for the production of small structures in which structures are "drawn" in a thin radiation sensitive film. Then comes the pattern transfer step in which the shapes are transferred into a useful material, such as that of an active semiconductor device or a metal wire. Lithography is the key process used to make silicon integrated circuits, such as a microprocessor with eight billion working transistors, or a camera chip which is over two inches across.
The manufacture of microprocessors is accomplished in large, dedicated factories which are limited to making one type of device. Also, normal lithography tools require the production of large, perfect and extremely expensive "negatives" so that it is only economical to use this technology to make huge numbers of identical devices.
The applications of lithography are far broader than just making silicon chips, however. For example, large areas of small dots of material can be used to make cells grow in particular directions or to become certain cell types for use in regenerative medicine; The definition of an exquisitely precise diffraction grating on a laser allows it to produce the perfectly controlled wavelengths of light needed to make portable atomic clocks or to measure the tiny magnetic fields associated with the functioning of the brain; Lithography enables the direct manipulation of quantum states needed to refine the international standards of time and electrical current and may one day revolutionise computation; By controlling the size and shape of a material we can give it new properties, enabling the replacement of scarce strategic materials such as tellurium in the harvesting of waste thermal energy.
This grant will enable the installation of an "electron-beam lithography" system in an advanced general-purpose fabrication laboratory. Electron beam lithography uses an electron beam rather than light to expose the resist and has the same advantages of resolution that an electron microscope has over a light microscope. This system will allow the production of the tiniest structures over large samples but does not need an expensive "negative" to be made. Instead, like a laser printer, the pattern to be written is defined in software, so that there is no cost associated with changing the shape if only one object of a particular shape is to be made. The electron beam lithography system is therefore perfect for making small things for scientific research or for making small numbers of a specialized device for a small company. The tool will be housed in a laboratory which allows the processing of the widest possible range of materials, from precious gem diamonds a few millimetres across to disks of exotic semiconductor the size of dinner plates.
The tool will be used by about 200 people from all over the UK and the world. By running continuously the tool will be very inexpensive to use, allowing the power of leading-edge lithography to be used by anyone, from students to small businesses. The tool will be supported and operated by a large dedicated team of extremely experienced staff, so that the learning curve to applying the most advanced incarnation of the most powerful technology of the age will be reduced to a matter of a few weeks.

Planned Impact

The capability being developed with this electron beam lithography (EBL) tool and the associated processes and equipment will generate economic benefit & provide positive impacts to society, knowledge & people.
Economic Impact: Glasgow has an excellent record of working with UK industry to develop new process modules. We have significant experience of protecting IP where appropriate & transferring IP into industrial partners for commercial exploitation. We also perform small-scale manufacture: Last financial year about 5% of the DFB lasers for datacentres worldwide were manufactured using the EBL capability at Glasgow. Placing the requested equipment in the James Watt Nanofabrication Centre (JWNC) at Glasgow will enable a large range of prototype electronic & optoelectronic devices to be fabricated for UK academia & industry. Whilst specific devices may be confidential, we will offer the developed process capability to the UK academic community as an enabling infrastructure for research via EPSRC grants, Quantum Technology Hubs & the STFC Kelvin-Rutherford access mechanisms. Kelvin Nanotechnology will provide managed industrial access to the capability. By these mechanisms, academic & industrial teams will be able to access a world-leading biomedical, electronic & photonic component supply chain at whichever technology level is most appropriate for their needs. They will also have access to a process capability that can be directly exploited where required. We will use our membership of the National Microelectronics Institute & our contacts with KTNs to host a number of joint industry events, using their network to ensure that UK biomedical, microelectronics & photonics companies know of the research projects being undertaken using the tool & are helped to identify the appropriate mechanisms to engage. This active engagement with the academic & industrial communities will maximise the number of beneficiaries of this investment & increase the number of impacts benefiting the UK economy.
The benefits to society are potentially immense from the research carried out on this tool. Glasgow pioneered the use of EBL for biological systems & healthcare: Cells may be guided by simple topographic nanostructures allowing their deliberate assembly, a key requirement for regenerative medicine. Different structures may be defined which promote specific cell differentiation, for example turning stem cells into bone, a technology which is now in medical trials to make self-repairing hip-joint replacements. Photonics & electronic components being pioneered at Glasgow will continue to power future optical & mobile communications systems.
Knowledge impact: The availability of state-of-the-art EBL in the context of JWNC is crucial to the operation of the UK's Quantum Technology hubs but also the £55M EPSRC portfolio at Glasgow which supports £68M of research in other UK universities. EBL underpins the ability of the UK to produce & apply complete quantum measurement & processing systems allowing the UK to engage fully in some of the key technological challenges of the time: From the development of miniaturised navigation systems, the local definition of quantum standards in manufacturing & research, quantum cryptography for secure communications & advanced systems for research in the basic problems of coherent state manipulation such as quantum computation.
People impact: The JWNC at Glasgow trains a large number of PDRAs, PhD, CDT & MSc students, many of whom end up working in UK industry, often taking a leading role. The funding of this proposal will allow the next generation of the UK's industrial work force to be trained on modern manufacturing tools for nanosystems manufacture. This will be particularly important for the evolving Quantum Technology ecosystem. With the present number of students at Glasgow, we expect at least 30 PDRAs & 30 new students each year to be trained & become users of the equipment.


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