NSF invites funding requests from current Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) Phase II grantees to perform collaborative research with an Engineering Research Center (ERC). The goals of this collaborative effort are to provide a mutually beneficial research and commercialization platform where SBIR/STTR Phase II grantees can perform collaborative research with ERC faculty, researchers, and graduate students, to strengthen the capacity of their firms, and/or speed the transition of ERC advances to the marketplace.

In accordance with the NSF solicitation NSF 10-617, PICOCAL, Inc has submitted a request for additional funding. The sub-awardee identified in the request is the University of Michigan. This proposal/request meets the requirements of the solicitation NSF 10-023.

The proposed collaboration leverages and extends the work from PICOCALs Phase II (SBIR Phase II Award Id: 0822810) and the Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Wireless Integrated Microsystems grants. PICOCAL would be leveraging technology developed during its NSF SBIR Phase II in order to grow individual nanostructures while controlling their dimensions and orientation. During its Phase II effort, a vacuum scanning system was developed to provide nanometer positioning accuracy and accommodate specialized scanning thermal probes and probe arrays. From the ERC's side, the on-going research in the AMPP (advanced materials, processes, and packaging) thrust is relevant to the manufacturing of probes that can operate at elevated temperatures and in chemically reactive environments.

This proposal provides an opportunity for the small business (PICOCAL) and the ERC (WIMS) to work synergistically together to develop a manufacturing technology for carbon nanotubes (CNT) that would have control over location, size, shape, and orientation not currently possible by other commercial methods. The SBIR Phase II to PICOCAL developed a specialized vacuum scanning system to allow nanometer accuracy when using scanning thermal probes and probe arrays. The ERC provides advanced materials expertise and additional expertise in scanning probes that will be important to the extension of the Phase II technology. The proposed collaboration will extend the Phase II technologies and translate this technology into the marketplace more rapidly.

The proposed work, if successful, can have broad applications across a number of fields, including health care, energy systems, and environmental monitoring. The use of nanoprobes to control the growth and orientation of nanostructures can have a tremendous effect on nanotechnology and is something that will be synergistic with research now being pursued in the WIMS Engineering Research Center. The expected deliverables from this work include an improved probe tip, and improved probe wear. The proposed activity also helps broaden the participation underrepresented groups.

Project Report

Today there is an enormous level of interest in the potential benefits of nano-structured materials and nanodevices. Significant progress has been made in the growth of nanostructures. In this work we developed a tool to enable growth of individual nanostructures while controlling their dimensions using a locally heated scanning probes. This approach allows the usage of widely available substrates, requires minimal substrate preparation, and is CMOS compatible. By confining the manufacturing environment to a sub-micron region through micro- reactions generated by localized heating, device fabrication can be controlled at an individual level. We developed a number of devices and successfully demonstrated proof-of-concept. A silicon based moving nano-heater locally heated specific areas on a substrate to induce a chemical reaction from precursor and reaction gasses for the deposition of materials. More specifically Cu(acac)2 and O2 were used resulting in the deposition of Cu and CuO at desired locations. The tip-contact area has a diameter of sub-micron lengths, heating the substrate over a diameter that is similar to the tip. The tip is heated resistively and the nano-heaters are designed so that most of the heating occurs at the contact area. A second device, a metal nano-heater capable of reaching high temperatures, was also developed. The device was integrated in a dual beam scanning electron microscope with gas injection capability. Surface modifications of a sample demonstrated real-time in-situ fabrication capability. The work has the ability to impact a wide array of applications across an extensive range of disciplines. The potential capabilities developed will be applicable to countless materials and structures. Manufacturing and manipulations in nanometer scale structures are of both scientific and industrial importance. There is vast array of beneficial nanotechnology-based applications for science, healthcare, energy, and the environment including gas sensing, gas chromatography, low power electronics. Ultimately this significant tool will facilitate nanotechnology.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP)
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Rathindra DasGupta
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Picocal, Inc.
Ann Arbor
United States
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