Manufacturing Bits: Aug. 9

Faster focused electron beam induced deposition; LEGO lab instruments.


Faster FEBIDs
Focused electron beam induced deposition (FEBID) is generating steam in the industry.

Still in the R&D stage, FEBID makes use of an electron beam from a scanning electron microscope. Basically, it decomposes gaseous molecules, which, in turn, deposit materials and structures on a surface at the nanoscale.

One of the big applications is a futuristic manufacturing technology called selective deposition. This involves a process of depositing materials and films in exact places. Selective deposition can be used to deposit metals on metals and dielectrics on dielectrics on a device.

There are other applications for FEBID as well. But there are issues with FEBID. It is slow and prone to errors. Repeatability and reliability of the method is still questionable.

In response, the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the University of Tennessee and the Graz University of Technology have developed a new technique for FEBID. With the technology, researchers have demonstrated the ability to control 3D-based lattice structures at 10nm. They devised tiny structures using Pt-, Au-, and W-based precursors.

A 32-face 3-D truncated icosahedron mesh was created using a FEBID (Source: Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

A 32-face 3-D truncated icosahedron mesh was created using a FEBID (Source: Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

To enable this feat, researchers have devised a 3D computer-aided design (CAD) program for the FEBID. This, in turn, generates the beam parameters for the FEBID tool. “(This technology) opens up a host of novel applications in 3-D plasmonics, free-standing nano-sensors and nano-mechanical elements on the lower nanoscale which are almost impossible to fabricate by other techniques,” said Harald Plank, a researcher, on Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Web site.

The Georgia Institute of Technology recently demonstrated a FEBID technology that is 5,000 times faster than traditional gas-phase techniques.

With the technology, researchers have demonstrated the ability to fabricate complex three-dimensional nanostructures from a variety of materials.

The technique uses what researchers call a nano-electrospray. Basically, Georgia Tech has accelerated the original gas-phase process for a FEBID. Researchers have introduced electrically charged liquid-phase precursors directly into the high vacuum of the electron microscope chamber.

“By allowing us to grow structures much faster with a broad range of precursors, this technique really opens up a whole new direction for making a hierarchy of complex three-dimensional structures with nanoscale resolution at the rate that is demanded for manufacturing scalability,” said Andrei Fedorov, a professor in Georgia Tech’s George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, on the university’s Web site.

LEGO lab instruments
The University of California at Riverside has developed a way to make lab instruments using 3D-printed, LEGO-like blocks.

The blocks are called Multifluidic Evolutionary Components (MECs). Each block in the system performs a basic task found in a lab instrument.

For example, there is a block for pumping fluids, making measurements or developing an interface. Then, the blocks can be assembled to create different research and diagnostic tools. This includes bioreactors for making alternative fuels or acid-based titration.

So far, researchers have developed over 200 MEC blocks. “This is a truly interdisciplinary project—we’ve had computer science students write the code that runs the blocks, bioengineering students culture cells using instruments built from the blocks, and even art students design the graphical interface for the software that controls the blocks,” said William Grover, assistant professor of bioengineering in UCR’s Bourns College of Engineering. “Once the students have created these instruments, they also understand how they work, they can ‘hack’ them to make them better, and they can take them apart to create something else.”

How to build a lab instrument (Source: UC Riverside)

How to build a lab instrument (Source: UC Riverside)

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