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Electron beam nanolithography facility opens at U of T


Toronto, ON – A state-of-the-art nanotechnology research lab has opened at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering. The lab will allow scientists and engineers to create next-generation devices that could significantly impact health care, information technology, clean technologies, digital media and the automotive industry.

The heart of the new facility is a $6.5 million electron beam lithography system, a tool that can define features as small as 10 nanometres – about 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. The facility is one of only two of its kind in Canada and will be open to both academic and industrial researchers across the country.

The opening of the new facility greatly enhances the university’s nanotechnology research capacity. The facility will foster new collaborations between academia and industry and will enable the university to recruit top-flight faculty members and train the next generation of highly skilled workers

Some of the projects already making use of the facility are aiming to develop better detection and sensor technologies. Professors Mo Mojahedi and Stewart Aitchison and PhD student Muhammad Alam are prototyping and testing a device to efficiently generate and guide a hybrid of light and electron oscillations – called surface plasmons – using an extremely compact setup. Such technology, once fully developed, will have a great impact on applications for health care (cancer detection), information technology (more compact optical and electronic devices) and the aerospace and automotive industries (better and cheaper gas sensors).

“We are very excited about the new addition to our micro- and nanofabrication facilities at the Emerging Communications Technology Institute (ECTI). We can now provide the full suite of tools for end-to-end micro- and nanofabrication and testing. Our new electron beam facility presents a quantum leap in these capabilities,” said Dr Mojahedi, ECTI’s director.

The facility is located in the basement of the Wallberg Building, ensuring very low mechanical vibration. The tool is enclosed in an environmental chamber that provides stringent temperature control: the lab temperature is set to 21C (plus or minus 0.25C) with a maximum rate of variation equal to 0.1C per hour. The environmental chamber is certified as a Class 100 cleanroom, which means that the number and size of dust and other particles is greatly reduced, providing a low-contaminant environment for research and device development.

The nanolithography facility will be operated by the university’s Emerging Communications Technology Institute and will enable ECTI to expand its national and international partnerships and collaborations.

Reported by Kate Brand, University of Toronto