Development of Next-Generation Nano-Fabrication Techniques

High-resolution Electron Beam Lithography Critical Mass Grant

Project details

Nanotechnology is a significant enabling research activity at both a national and international level. Concerned with the manipulation and arrangement of material on the nanometre-scale, the transformative possibilities of this field are immense for the physical, biological and medical sciences and their allied industrial and clinical applications. The universities of Leeds, York and Sheffield have an exceptionally strong international record of research and research-led teaching in nanotechnology and represent a strong regional focus in the UK in this field. Much research is carried out collaboratively and inter-disciplinarily in well-resourced and sustainably managed facilities.

However, despite the strength of such existing activities, it is clear that certain capabilities require an urgent and substantial transformation if we are to continue to offer internationally competitive research in this field over the next decade. Specifically - and the objective of this proposal - there is a pressing need to establish a state-of-the-art electron-beam lithography machine for fabrication of structures with a <10 nm resolution, with highly reproducible stitching and overlay accuracy <20 nm. The proposed facility would not only be unique in the region, but will also be leading both in the UK and internationally. It will meet the future needs of researchers over the next decade and beyond, allow us to capitalise on previous investments, grow research income from a wide variety of sources, attract and retain the highest calibre staff in the UK, and build a capability to develop a skill-set for ambitious, adventurous and transformative research, and exploitation. Furthermore, it will act as a focus in the region, drawing in researchers from industry and other universities for collaborative programmes. Such direct engagement with industry will open up routes for further investment as well as exploitation of new science and technology.

A wide range of research will benefit, much cross-disciplinary; immediate exemplars, drawing upon proven track records of the investigators, include research into nanomagnetism, spintronics, bio-nanotechnology, nanoelectronics, single-molecule devices, and high-frequency electronics, inter alia. During this programme, the facility will be used to support both a range of existing grants, and to underpin future grants, many of which cannot be contemplated without the planned enhancement in capability.

Significant contributions to this project (41% of the overall project value) have been secured from the University of Leeds, where the new facility will be based, Yorkshire Forward (the regional development agency), and the electron beam lithography instrument manufacturer. The latter two contributions will be combined to provide funding for 10 PhD studentships to aid uptake of the instrument from researchers across the region, enable pump-priming proving research to be carried out, draw industrial involvement into the project, and increase the availability of skilled personnel at a world leading level to facilitate high technology development. The strong industrial support for this programme is evidenced by letters of intent provided both by international companies (eg Hitachi, Intel, Seagate, Toshiba), and local SMEs (eg Aptuscan).

Funding agency

EPSRC (Critical Mass Grant, EP/I000933/1, value: GBP 2,687,537)

Starting date

01/10/2010 (for 5 years).

Ending date

30/09/2015 (successfully completed).