EU FIB project
The European Union (EU) has launched a new project to develop next-generation structures and materials using focused ion beam (FIB) systems.
The EU project, dubbed Focused Ion Technology for Nanomaterials or FIT4NANO, is spearheaded by the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) organization. The project aims to bring European researchers and companies together to develop new FIB-based technologies and applications. Some 80 experimental and theoretical working groups from 30 countries are participating in the project.
FIT4NANO is part of the EU’s European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) program. The program is providing up to 120,000 euros per year for FIT4NANO.
In the market for years, FIBs are used in many applications. In operation, a sample is placed in a FIB system. The FIB system uses a beam of ions, which can modify or “mill” the specimen surface with nanometer precision, according to Thermo Fisher Scientific. A FIB can produce tiny components or remove unwanted materials.
Using a FIB, the FIT4NANO project hopes to develop functional nanostructures, 2D materials and other technologies. Another application involves the development of a helium ion microscopy system, which uses advanced focus ion beams to image samples at fine resolutions.
The project involves four groups. The first group is developing new nanomaterials. The second group is developing new ion sources or other parts of a FIB. Another group hopes to get a better understanding of the interactions between ions and solids. The fourth group will promote the findings.
“Focused ion beams offer great potential for many applications in nanotechnology,” said Gregor Hlawacek, head of the Ion-Induced Nanostructures group at HZDR’s Institute of Ion Beam Physics and Materials Research, and coordinator of the FIT4NANO project. “For example, it can be used to flexibly structure surfaces at the nanoscale or specifically change local material properties. Our technology could be significant for quantum technology, the semiconductor industry, or modifying two-dimensional materials – crystalline materials consisting of only one or just a few layers of atoms or molecules. FIBs will also play an important role in future medical applications.”
Hydrogen depassivation lithography
The University of Texas at Dallas has developed a technique to develop silicon-based quantum devices using hydrogen depassivation lithography (HDL).
The goal of the project is to remove some of the challenges in the development of a qubit, which is a basic unit of information in a quantum computer.
HDL is sometimes called resistless lithography. In this process, hydrogen atoms are formed on a silicon surface. In effect, the hydrogen atoms act as a resist. Then, using a scanning tunneling microscope (STM), the tip injects electrons on the surface, which breaks the bonds and forms patterns on the structure.
Quantum computing, meanwhile, is different than traditional computing. In classical computing, the information is stored in bits, which can be either a “0” or “1”. In quantum computing, though, information is stored in quantum bits, or qubits, which can exist as a “0” or “1” or a combination of both.
The superposition state enables a quantum computer to perform millions of calculations at once, enabling it to outperform a traditional system. But quantum computing is still in its infancy and has a long way to go.
Researchers at The University of Texas have found a way to provide better control for the development of silicon-based qubits.
In the lab, researchers started with a silicon surface. Then, they coat the surface with a layer of hydrogen. Then, using a STM with a sharp tip, hydrogen atoms are removed or manipulated on the surface, based on the desired pattern of the device.
At times, though, the STM can remove the wrong atoms, creating a faulty device. In response, researchers are working on a more precise method for manipulating the atoms. One of the next challenges will be to develop a technology that operate multiple STM tips at a time.
“Conventional lithography cannot achieve the requisite atomic precision. The issue is that we are using a microscope to do lithography; we’re using a device to do something it’s not designed for,” said Reza Moheimani, the James Von Ehr Distinguished Chair in Science and Technology and a professor of systems engineering in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at The University of Texas. “Our latest work increases the precision of the fabrication process. We’re also working to increase throughput, speed and reliability.”
Mark LaPedus is Executive Editor for manufacturing at Semiconductor Engineering.
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