ATI and CEVP
joint venture set to catalyse revolution in flat displays, ICs, high-brightness light sources, etc
World's first tool for low-temperature carbon nanotube
growth starts trials
Newhaven, & The University of Surrey, UK | Posted on November 29, 2005
CEVP has developed a fabrication tool to commercialise the revolutionary low temperature carbon
nanotube growth process developed by the University of Surrey's Advanced Technology Institute (ATI). The new tool - NanoGrowth
- is currently being trialled and characterised, and the two partners anticipate releasing the technology for commercial use
in March 2006.
The exploitation of the incredible mechanical and electrical properties of carbon nanotubes in precision
applications such as integrated circuits and flat panel displays has been hindered by current growth techniques, which can
elevate substrate temperatures to 1000 degrees C or more, resulting in damage or material compatibility issues. In contrast,
the NanoGrowth tool, which is designed to deliver nanomaterial growth across areas up to three inches in diameter, employs
a unique thermal control system to maintain the growth substrate at room temperature.
"The goal of this tool is to
make precision carbon nanotube fabrication possible at low temperatures, together with a scale of growth area that is suitable
for many high technology applications," says Ben Jensen of CEVP. "We believe it will be the first platform for making carbon
nanotubes and nanowires a practical proposition in commercial high technology applications."
The equipment is a joint
venture between CEVP - a leader in the provision of plasma process tools to research institutions and semiconductor manufacturers
- and ATI at the University of Surrey, one of the UK's leading professional, scientific and technological universities. The
partners have collaborated to develop a plasma-enhanced chemical vapour deposition (PECVD) and vacuum process that is optimised
for the growth of carbon nanotubes with highly controlled properties such as density, length and position. Special control
sequences are also provided to make carbon nanotubes 'flower', for large surface area applications.
thermal control system maintains the work area substrate at room temperatures during processing, allowing carbon nanotube
materials to be grown with precision - even on highly heat sensitive materials such as plastic. The tool may also be used
to grow related nanomaterials including doped silicon nanowires and metal oxide nanowires on suitable substrates.
high degree of thermal control and automation offered by this tool allows more precise control of growth parameters, for accurate
and repeatable processing," says Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the Advanced Technology Institute (ATI).
capability is highly programmable, providing great flexibility for research or development use. User-friendly software - a
version of CEVP's field-proven SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) package - gives fine control over all stages
of processing via graphical MIMIC-style displays. As part of the beta testing phase, ATI and CEVP will be creating generic
nanotube and nanowire recipes that will be provided with the tool, which offer ready-to-use growth processes. Users will also
have full manual control, and will be able to adapt these recipes, or create their own custom processes using a menu-driven
user interface to control gas flow rates, voltage and current levels, RF power, temperatures, etc. Sophisticated data-logging,
trending and batch tracking facilities help users to develop and document their own processes, to optimise recipes for commercial
production. Remote monitoring is also possible.
The tool has also been constructed using modular design principles,
which is helpful to R&D work as it facilitates customisation and upgradeability.
The University of Surrey's ATI
has been active in the nanotechnology field for some eight years, working for sponsors in areas including defence. It first
described its ground-breaking room temperature growth process in Nature Materials in 2002, and this has subsequently been
patented. ATI's work since then has improved the process, and made it capable of growing material across much larger substrate
areas. During the development of this tool, the collaboration with CEVP has also resulted in numerous refinements that have
helped to convert the laboratory technique into a practical manufacturing process, and CEVP is in the process of patenting
The precision control and scale of growth offered by the new tool is expected to be of considerable
use in both academic and commercial laboratories, for the development of practical nanomaterial production techniques for
high technology applications. Likely applications include low-resistance nanowires in integrated circuits, semiconducting
nanotubes for fabricating high performance transistors, micro-miniature heatsinks, ultra-tough polymer composites, gas sensors,
and light sources for flat panel displays - which because of the lower processing temperatures could now be fabricated on
low-cost soda lime glass.
NanoGrowth datasheet CEVP ATI