The University of Twente’s MESA+ research institute has purchased an advanced Pulsed Laser Deposition (PLD) machine from its research partner, the spin-off company Solmates. This device opens the door to the creation of new materials and chips (or individual chip components), which are constructed as a series of layers, each just one atom thick. The new machine will enable MESA+ to further strengthen its position relative to industry. This is because MESA+ NanoLab’s numerous researchers and external users will, from now on, be able to work on an industrial scale. As a result, new scientific knowledge in the areas of unconventional electronics and advanced materials will be more accessible, as well as more suitable for practical application at an earlier stage.
MESA+, the University of Twente’s nanotechnology research institute, is a leader in the creation of extremely thin layers consisting of just a single layer of atoms. This involves using a laser to transform a material into a plasma, which then condenses on a surface to form an extremely thin layer. By layering multiple very thin layers, one over the other, it is possible to create completely new chips (or individual chip components) and materials with properties that have never been seen before. The technique involved – which was partly developed at the University of Twente – is known as Pulsed Laser Deposition (PLD). Arjen Janssens, CEO of Solmates, expects that by around 2020 PLD will have evolved into one of the standard chip production systems.
The limitations of the equipment previously used for this purpose at universities meant that it was only possible to process relatively small areas (10 x 10 millimetres). The new machine that MESA+ has purchased allows you to lay down patterns across much larger areas. Researchers and the other users of the MESA+ NanoLab can now lay down patterns on 20-centimetre-diameter wafers (silicon discs), just like their counterparts in industry. This means that the institute’s research results, and the novel technology it creates, will be directly applicable in industry. Moreover, the new equipment is much more user-friendly, so many more NanoLab users will be able to use it. Janneke Hoedemaekers, the Technical Commercial Director of MESA+, calls this a major step in the direction of industry. “This equipment has many new features, which will enable us to step up our activities from the laboratory scale to the industrial scale. The latter further reinforces our partnership with industry and ensures that our technology, prototypes and knowledge can be applied at an earlier stage. It will also give us extra capabilities for combining complex materials, such as oxidic materials, with silicon technology.” Thus the new equipment is perfectly in keeping with the research conducted at MESA+ in the field of advanced materials and unconventional electronics, i.e. electronics based on completely new materials. Incidentally, University of Twente researchers will not be the only ones to benefit from the new equipment. NanoLab’s facilities are frequently used by external companies (SME) in the region, and from far and wide.
Solmates, the company that developed and markets the PLD machine, is a University of Twente spin-off company. It is the only company in the world to manufacture PLD equipment that is suitable for industrial applications. The company has been working on this technology since 2009 and holds a number of important patents. The company sold its first PLD machine in 2013. It recently supplied a machine to IMEC, the leading nanoelectronics research centre. The purchase of this equipment was partly facilitated by NanoLabNL.
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