Manufacturing Bits: July 12

Detecting zeptojoules; combo inspection tool; FIB lab.


Detecting zeptojoules
Aalto University has broken the world’s record for microwave detection.

Specifically, researchers detected zeptojoule microwave pulses using a superconducting microwave detector, based on proximity-induced Josephson junctions. This broke the record by fourteenfold, according to researchers.

Microwaves are a form of electromagnetic radiation. They have frequencies that range from 300 MHz and 300 GHz. Microwaves are used in mobile phone and satellite communications.

A zeptojoule is equal to one sextillionth of one joule. Some 160 zeptojoules is equivalent to one electronvolt. A joule is a standard unit of work in the International System of Units (SI). “It is equal to the energy transferred (or work done) to an object when a force of one newton acts on that object in the direction of its motion through a distance of one meter,” according to Wikipedia.

Meanwhile, Aalto University devised a tool called a microwave nanobolometer. It consists of tiny pieces of superconducting aluminum and a gold nanowire. The detector works at a hundredth of a degree above absolute zero and is smaller than a single human blood cell.

A signal is detected using electrothermal feedback. In simple terms, an energy source can amplify the temperature change arising from the absorbed photons.

Microwave detector (Source: Aalto University)

Microwave detector (Source: Aalto University)

This breakthrough could lead to a new class of ultrasensitive cameras and accessories for quantum computers. “Existing superconducting technology can produce single microwave photons. However, detection of such traveling photons efficiently is a major outstanding challenge. Our results provide a leap towards solving this problem using thermal detection,” said Joonas Govenius, a researcher, on the university’s Web site.

Combo inspection tool
Singaporean startup Maglen has disclosed more details about its multi-beam e-beam technology.

The company is building a multi-column system. The system has four columns, which can be optimized to handle four separate functions—a CD-SEM; a review SEM; physical inspection; and electrical inspection.

Only one system can work at a time. “Our principle idea is a modularized and miniaturized high-performance column, which is completely independent, and can be assembled into an array just like LEGO,” said Tony Luo, founder of Maglen.

“We have a prototype of one column, one source, with four lenses,” he said. “This is just to prove that there is no lens interaction, and that the columns can work independently,” he said. “We are now building a four column, four source and a four lens system. It may take up to 2 years to complete the whole thing.”

FIB lab
A new focused ion beam (FIB) microscope has moved into operation at Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron’s NanoLab.

The FIB was purchased by the University of Bayreuth, as part of a joint research project with DESY. Available for the research community, the tool enables scientists to explore samples and materials.

The ion beam can be used to remove materials. The combined ion beam and electron microscope can be used in various applications, such as nanotechnology, materials science and biology. “Together with the built-in milling machine, we can not only determine the three-dimensional structure, but also the distribution of the elements beneath the surface by alternately removing material and carrying out a chemical analysis, much like in 3D tomography,” said Thomas Keller, who heads the sub-division microscopy and nano structuring at the DESY NanoLab.

Other Research Bits This Week
System Research
IoT comms; smartphone privacy; portable gluten sensor.
Power/Performance Research
Thin transistors; 2D perovskites.