This award provides support to Northwestern University (NU) to procure a dedicated electron beam lithography (eBL) system for interdisciplinary research, integrated hands-on training and education, and outreach. The ability to position structures down to the nano-/molecular-scale with exquisite and precise control over size, site, shape and overall architecture is one hallmark of modern science and engineering. Advances in research across multiple fields, from optoelectronics to quantum information processing to biosensors, are enabled by the ability to manipulate matter at these length-scales addressed by the eBL nanopatterning and nanolithography. In this context, eBL has become the workhorse for patterning with nanometer-scale precision across a large spatial area. This eBL system will significantly impact the Northwestern community and beyond. Undergraduate, graduate students and researchers will benefit from the hands-on training and cleanroom experience with the new dedicated eBL, and its diverse applications. The instrument capabilities will form hands-on laboratory modules in courses in broad area of materials fabrication and characterization. The system will be housed in a dedicated clean-room nanofabrication facility called "NUFAB", and will help provide a complete integrated micro/nanofabrication process flow within the facility. In addition, NUFAB is part of the NSF-National Nanofabrication Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI) node in the Midwest region called Soft- and Hybrid Nanotechnology Experimental (SHyNE) Resource. As an NNCI node, SHyNE Resource provides access to this dedicated eBL to regional and national users, such as SMEs and large corporations, in addition to access to local area institutions, regional universities and community colleges. The eBL system will greatly enhance NU and surrounding research capabilities, regional infrastructure under NSF-NNCI node, and contribute to integrated and cross-disciplinary education and outreach, with lasting impact.
The eBL system supported by this award will be key in enhancing the "figures of merit" for patterning and lithography that are essential for myriad scientific challenges and technological proof-of-concepts addressed by project team, NU colleagues and collaborators. It will enable hitherto challenging experiments in a wide range of initiatives. The eBL system will impact broad categories in: plasmonics and photonics; quantum structures and phenomena; materials for electronics and energy; NEMS/MEMS sensors and systems; soft matter, fluidics and biomolecular structures. The eBL system will enable fabrication of active nanoscale elements across inch-scale spatial distribution for broad-beam interrogation/measurements. It will push the limits of plasmonics and photonic structures in terms of size, shape, definition, fidelity, at the nanometer scale. Theorists and modeling experts will cross-correlate experimental findings for potential breakthroughs in light-matter interactions. The eBL will enable fabrication of nanoscale contacts for critical transport and related measurements of emerging functional nanostructures, as their size requires nanoscale contacts. Those exploring quantum phenomena/systems in spatially confined systems (2-D layers, semiconductor heterostructures), will make use of the precision stage, pattern "stitching" and other novelties of the proposed system. The system will serve as a testbed for the development of novel electron-beam resists and materials modification by electron-beam exposures. It will enable exploring the role of roughness and spatial confinement on wetting behavior, fluid transport, biomolecular sorting and other phenomena anchored by nanoscale fabrication and patterning of eBL system.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.