High Resolution Unconventional Lithography for Advanced Materials

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy

Abstract

Advanced materials and technologies underpin a significant research base and engagement with the industrial partners to identify the potential applications for everyday life and society. Electronic, quantum and spintronic devices integrated with nanoscience, have the potential to disrupt the existing technologies, providing enhanced performance. Such devices will have a wide range of potential applications and will influence various sectors, such as energy, nanotechnology, healthcare, and sensors.

Nano- and quantum technology device applications with advanced materials require precise fabrication of nanoscale patterns, and nanostructuring of materials that exhibit an intrinsic functionality. There are several existing nanofabrication tools and among all electron-beam lithography is extensively used in academia for writing nanoscale features. However, there are several limitations - difficulty to generate arbitrary and complex nanopatterns on large areas, need of high vacuum conditions, selective to only few substrates, time consuming, which all limit the high throughput and make the production expensive. Notably, nanofabrication remains challenging, with majority of techniques limited by their resolution and speed. There is therefore an urgent need for stat-of-the-art fabrication infrastructure that can provide nanometer spatial resolution with high speed, simple and cost effective methodologies to develop novel devices and their scale-up.

The proposed unconventional high-resolution nanofabrication facility, HiRes, will be a new national facility and will provide the 'missing tool' for advanced nanoscale material preparation and characterisation. The HiRes tools produce features below 20 nm with high speed, precision and reliability using direct heated probe lithography. The conventional lithographic techniques capable of producing such narrow structures use electrons or ions, however they may induce structural damage, are prone to polymeric resist residues from the fabrication process, and often incompatible with new materials. HiRes offers a game-changer technology with high-resolution (minimum demonstrated feature size 7 nm), damage-free lithography (heat is the stimulus), 3D nanostructuring of multiple levels, high speed (1 mm/s), marker-less overlay, correlation stitching, adaptable to emerging materials and compatible with a variety of substrates (including flexible and wearables, biomaterials). HiRes enables the fabrication of nanoscale features with high resolution for applications in high performance computing, high density data storage, devices operating in THz range, sub-wavelength waveguides, photonic crystals and plasmonic structures, to name a few.

The HiRes nanofabrication and surface characterization suite will be installed within the National Graphene Institute (NGI) at the University of Manchester and will provide unprecedented capability for nanofabrication and advanced functional materials research. This is a national nanofabrication facility which has one of the largest such cleanroom facilities in the UK/EU, and is a world leading centre for research on graphene and other 2D materials. Access to the HiRes will be made available to UK academics and industry undertaking research in this area through the NGI and Henry Royce Institute, UK national facility for Advanced Materials. We expect this cutting edge facility will both foster ambitious multidisciplinary collaborative research, and provide a platform for new exciting research, particularly for our early career researchers.

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