21/10/10 – Nanotechnology is still a priority for the UK despite the recent Government cuts
21 October 2010
One of the highest resolution electron-beam lithography systems in Europe will soon be installed at the University of Leeds thanks to a £2.7 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC.)
The system is manufactured by electron microscope supplier JEOL and is expected to help scientists in Yorkshire break new ground in nanotechnology. JEOL (UK) Ltd is the UK arm of the world’s leading manufacturer of electron microscopes and lithography equipment associated with nanotechnology.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. The EPSRC invests around £850 million a year in research and postgraduate training. The £4 million state-of-the-art lithography facility has also been funded by investment directly from the University of Leeds and industrial funding for PhD studentships.
Electron-beam lithography systems are widely used by researchers to pattern wires, dots, rings and sophisticated integrated structures on a submicron length scale. The system that is coming to Leeds will able to define features that are less than 10 nanometres in size, which is more than 1000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.
This will allow researchers to fabricate new generations of high frequency electronics and spintronic devices and to study novel magnetic materials, with the potential for commercialization over the next five to 10 years. The system will also enable researchers to fabricate electrodes that are small enough to connect to individual molecules or groups of molecules, leading to new classes of hybrid, bioelectronic materials that could have applications in medical diagnostics.
Professor Edmund Linfield, from the School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, University of Leeds said, “This instrument will take us to the next level of sophistication in terms of nanoengineering. The system’s sub-10 nm resolution will really help us bridge the gap to molecular scale patterning. In short, it will allow us to undertake the fundamental scientific work that will underpin the next generation of materials that will emerge over the coming decades, and allow us to design devices that will find industrial applications from the electronic to the medical sectors. ”
Plans have already been made for the use of the lithography system. Researchers will examine how nanowires made from magnetic films can be used to trap ultra-cold atoms, a technique that will help advance quantum computing applications. They will also experiment with structures made from single-atom-thick sheets of carbon, or a material known as graphene that has highly unusual electrical, mechanical and chemical properties. Their aim is to use the graphene sheets to make super-fast electrometers that can respond within a trillionth of a second.
“The Universities of Leeds, York and Sheffield have an exceptionally strong international record of research in nanotechnology, but we must continue to invest in the latest facilities and infrastructure if we, and the UK, are to remain major players in the field,” said Professor Giles Davies, Pro-Dean for Research in the Faculty of Engineering, University of Leeds. “We must also make sure that up-and-coming young researchers are equipped with the skills they need to compete in an international scientific arena.”
Dr Daniel Allwood, from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Sheffield, said: “The excitement about this new collaborative facility is due to the future science that it enables. The world-class patterning capabilities will lead to a new understanding of nanoscale materials and innovations across a wide range of application areas.”
The School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University of Leeds was rated as the top electronic and electrical engineering department in the UK, (2008 Research Assessment Exercise) 80% of research activity is rated as internationally excellent or world leading.