Novel nanomaterial system will help create materials of the future - for applications from semiconductors to energy conversion

Surrey NanoSystems announces the first sales of its innovative new nanomaterial growth system, the NanoGrowth-Catalyst, to the École Polytechnique of Montreal, and the University of Surrey's Advanced Technology Institute.

These leading research organisations have chosen the NanoGrowth-Catalyst as a platform for their work on materials including carbon nanotubes, silicon nanowires, graphene and nanoparticles for semiconductor, optical device and other applications. The growth system's multi-chamber design ensures the purest nanomaterial processing conditions by continuously maintaining the substrate under vacuum, from the deposition of catalysts to growth of materials.

One NanoGrowth-Catalyst system will be installed in Montreal, where it will support a wide range of research groups from the École Polytechnique and The University of Montreal studying topics including microelectronics, optoelectronics, and thin film physics.

This system will be populated with every major processing facility available including three processing chambers served by an automated handling system, and growth techniques including CVD, PECVD, nanoparticle deposition, sputtering, thermal annealing, and rapid thermal processing. It will also incorporate a unique form of rapid thermal growth for nanomaterials developed to prevent the agglomeration of catalyst particles. The configuration of the tool was specified by Professor Patrick Desjardins, Director of the École Polytechnique's Department of Engineering Physics.

One research group using the system will be the University of Montreal's chemistry department, led by Professor Richard Martel. The group's interests are very broad ranging, and include device-oriented programs looking at electronics, optoelectronics, sensing technologies and energy conversion, and fundamental research into the phenomena occurring at the interfaces of electroactive nanostructure materials - through projects including the deposition of controlled-size nanoparticles and passivation layers.

Dr Pierre Levesque of the University of Montreal's chemistry department comments: "We were looking for a very capable system that could support wide-ranging research, and which is easy to use. The very high-level software-controlled automation of nanomaterial processing offered by NanoGrowth-Catalyst gives us this versatility."

The Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) is a partner to Surrey NanoSystems and has already been using an earlier version of the NanoGrowth system for around four years to support its research into next-generation semiconductor and photonic device technologies. ATI is the first customer to receive the new NanoGrowth-Catalyst, and the system's advanced processing resources are now starting to play a role in its work. Facilities including the rapid infrared heating process and a water-cooled chuck are helping ATI to grow ordered carbon nanotube (CNT) structures while maintaining the substrate below 350 degrees C. Low temperature processing is critical as CNTs are typically grown at around 700 degrees C - a level that is incompatible with CMOS semiconductor fabrication. This pioneering semiconductor-related work is currently the subject of a current ATI paper in the journal Carbon†.

"The top-down infrared heating technique provided by this tool allows us to localise energy delivery very accurately", says Professor Ravi Silva, Head of the Nano-Electronics Centre at the Advanced Technology Institute. "The system provides unparalleled control of processing parameters, giving the required flexibility to support research into nanoelectronic materials - including carbon nanotubes, graphene and silicon nanowires - enabling us to overcome roadblocks to ongoing semiconductor development."

"Some researchers are still relying on simple thermal furnaces to develop nanomaterials", explains Ben Jensen of Surrey NanoSystems. "The NanoGrowth system's comprehensive suite of deposition and processing capabilities, plus end-to-end processing in vacuum, gives both researchers and commercial developers precise and automated control over catalyst deposition and material growth, to explore nanomaterial capabilities and turn ideas into repeatable production processes."

In addition to these sales, Surrey NanoSystems has built a third system for its in-house nanomaterials research effort, targeting materials for new forms of conducting via structures and dielectric materials to support the continued scaling of semiconductor devices. This system has three processing chambers, automated handling, and includes every processing option available, providing the best possible platform for research. Spare capacity on this tool will be made available to universities and their researchers working in related fields.