Nanoscale Advanced Materials Engineering

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Abstract

Development of materials has underpinned human and societal development for millennia, and such development has accelerated as time has passed. From the discovery of bronze through to wrought iron and then steel and polymers the visible world around has been shaped and built, relying on the intrinsic properties of these materials. In the 20th century a new materials revolution took place leading to the development of materials that are designed for their electronic (e.g. silicon), optical (e.g. glass fibres) or magnetic (e.g. recording media) properties. These materials changed the way we interact with the world and each other through the development of microelectronics (computers), the world wide web (optical fibre communications) and associated technologies.

Now, two decades into the 21st century, we need to add more functionality into materials at ever smaller length-scales in order to develop ever more capable technologies with increased energy efficiency and at an acceptable manufacturing cost. In pursuing this ambition, we now find ourselves at the limit of current materials-processing technologies with an often complex interdependence of materials properties (e.g. thermal and electronic). As we approach length scales below 100s of nanometres, we have to harness quantum effects to address the need for devices with a step-change in performance and energy-efficiency, and ultimately for some cases the fundamental limitations of quantum mechanics.

In this programme grant we will develop a new approach to delivering material functionalisation based on Nanoscale Advanced Materials Engineering (NAME). This approach will enable the modification of materials through the addition (doping) of single atoms through to many trillions with extreme accuracy (~20 nanometres, less than 1000th the thickness of a human hair). This will allow us to functionalise specifically a material in a highly localised location leaving the remaining material available for modification. For the first time this will offer a new approach to addressing the limitations faced by existing approaches in technology development at these small length scales. We will be able to change independently a material's electronic and thermal properties on the nanoscale, and use the precise doping to deliver enhanced optical functionality in engineered materials. Ambitiously, we aim to use NAME to control material properties which have to date proven difficult to exploit fully (e.g. quantum mechanical spin), and to control states of systems predicted but not yet directly experimentally observed or controlled (e.g. topological surface states). Ultimately, we may provide a viable route to the development of quantum bits (qubits) in materials which are a pre-requisite for the realisation of a quantum computer. Such a technology, albeit long term, is predicted to be the next great technological revolution

NAME is a collaborative programme between internationally leading UK researchers from the Universities of Manchester, Leeds and Imperial College London, who together lead the Henry Royce Institute research theme identified as 'Atoms to Devices'. Together they have already established the required substantial infrastructure and state-of-the-art facilities through investment from Royce, the EPSRC and each University partner. The programme grant will provide the resource to assemble the wider team required to deliver the NAME vision, including UK academics, research fellows, and postdoctoral researchers, supported by PhD students funded by the Universities. The programme grant also has significant support from wider academia and industry based both within the UK and internationally.

Planned Impact

Who might benefit from this research?
NAME focuses on 4 areas of science and engineering: the development of new nanoscale instrumentation; its use to develop new photonic devices; thermal management to reduce energy consumption; and manipulation of defects to develop quantum devices (e.g. low noise amplification and qubits). The economic and societal beneficiaries of the research are in the area of photonics, energy and quantum. Each of these sectors have wide economic potential with a broad range of beneficiaries. The Photonics market is projected to grow to $780.4BN by 2023, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.0 % (www.marketsandmarkets.com/PressReleases/photonic.asp), but investment in the UK has weakened and the CAGR in the UK is around 2.3% (www.photonics21.org/ppp-services/photonics-downloads.php). Reducing energy demand by improved efficiencies/thermal management will contribute to a current market of $310BN pa (www.energylivenews.com/2014/10/08/global-energy-efficiency-market-worth-310bn-a-year/), whilst the low-noise amplifier market, where we expect maser amplification to play a significant role, is estimated to see CAGR of 11% to reach a total market size of $2.965BN by 2023 (www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180802005594/en/Global-Low-Noise-Amplifier-Market-Analysis-Forecasts-2018-2023).

A 2018 IoP report states 'the UK needs to invest more in bringing novel technology to market if it is to compete globally in the future' (/www.iop.org/publications/iop/2018/file_71498.pdf). In the same report it is noted that increasing precision manufacturing is seen as a key enabler for increased productivity. Precision manufacturing is exactly what NAME will achieve. Our project partners have interests spanning materials and device development, characterisation and lithographic techniques as well as end users of the devices. We expect a significant increase in collaborators as the PG progresses beyond our strongly supportive initial team.

How might they benefit from this research?
In preparation for this PG we have had extensive discussions with industrial partners who seek realistic applications of the science and technology proposed. Our partners have an interest in the area of quantum technologies and in methods to reduce energy demand in ICT devices, and these are longer term goals. However, we have been set specific goals too. We have industrial input regarding phase noise at specific carrier offsets in measurement systems for communications at rf/microwave frequencies and specific targets for noise in low noise amplifiers: to exceed the performance of cryogenic HEMTs. The primary industrial application for silicon photonics is in optical switching for telecomms and computing; with the promise of faster, lower energy-per-bit data transmission. The rapidly expanding energy demand, driven by the colossal growth in internet traffic is bringing this into sharp focus. (https://physicsworld.com/a/the-promise-of-silicon-photonics/). The research in NAME also has application in the healthcare sector, for example in "...DNA sequencing, miniaturized diagnostic testing using disposable photonic chips, accurate body monitoring sensors, brain stimulation probes...",
(https://www.imec-int.com/en/articles/chip-technology-and-photonics-enable-smaller-faster-and-cheaper-medical-devices). Our research objectives comprise 16 ambitious targets, providing us with a set of SMART goals, achievable as research outcomes for which down-selection will lead to proof of principle devices within 5 years.

We also expect impact to arise from attraction of investment from both UK and global firms and through the development of new processes through the science developed. The technology as noted above has broad economic and societal benefit through applications in photonics, energy and quantum. We will ensure that the NAME team including PhD students and PDRAs work closely with industrial partners to enable technology development.

Publications

10 25 50