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The University of Delaware, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

UD establishes electron beam lithography facility

With funding from the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the University of Delaware has acquired advanced electron beam lithography equipment that enables the design and realization of nanoscale gears and wires as well as nano-photonic devices. Dennis Prather, College of Engineering Alumni Professor, is the principal investigator on the grant.
Prather explains that in the technology sector, traditional lithography is a process whereby an image is transferred to a surface through an ultraviolet exposure process. “While this process is predominant within the electronics industry,” he says, “it has inherent limitations on the smallest feature that it can realize. To produce smaller features, an exposure process based on electrons -- referred to as electron beam lithography, or e-beam lithography -- can be used.”

The e-beam process is based on scanning a beam of electrons in a patterned fashion across a surface covered with an electron-sensitive film, followed by removing either exposed or non-exposed regions of the film. The process enables the creation of tiny structures (on the order of 10 nanometers) in the film that can then be transferred to the substrate material. Originally developed for manufacturing integrated circuits, it can also be used to create a variety of nanotechnology devices.
The new facility, located in Room 107 DuPont Hall, includes three machines with complementary capabilities. The lab is organized around a state-of-the-art e-beam lithography machine, the Raith e-LINE. According to Prather, the new machine has a variety of value-added features not found in traditional e-beam lithography equipment, such as nano-manipulators and the capability for in-situ metal deposition and in-chamber etching. It can also pattern metallic structures in three dimensions.
“This machine is pretty amazing in that it can pattern a surface, move nanoparticles around, perform metallization -- even in 3-D -- and perform spot-etching, all without taking the sample out of the machine,” he says. “It's the first system of its kind that the company has built in the United States.”
The facility also includes a traditional e-beam lithography machine, which is excellent at patterning, and an environmental scanning electron microscope (ESEM), which eliminates the rapid resolution degradation associated with traditional SEM imaging on dielectric surfaces.
While Prather and his team will be regular users of the facility, it is open to researchers throughout the University at a rate of $90/hour, as well as the local industrial community on a fee basis. Contact Prather by e-mail at [] for more information.

Article by Diane Kukich
Photo by Doug Baker


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