This award from the Major Research Instrumentation program supports Brown University with the acquisition of a modern maskless lithography system (Heidelberg Instruments MLA-150). Maskless lithography, where the pattern is transferred to the substrate by rapidly scanning a laser beam over the photoresist-covered substrate, under computer control overcomes many of the limitations of current photolithography techniques. The instrument will be located within the Nanofabrication Central Facility (NCF) and will support the research by some 25 research groups at Brown University including faculty from Engineering to Physics to Chemistry to Biomedical Engineering as well as local research community and industry. The MLA-150 will enable high-speed and flexible optical lithography down to micron-sized features at low cost and over large areas, without the constraints of pre-existing mask sets. In the immediate future, it will enable research in a range of funded or planned research projects in electronic and microfluidic devices. The flexibility of the system would help expand the range of laboratory courses currently supported by the NCF (three Engineering fabrication courses, currently focused on diode, transistor and solar cell fabrication) to encompass e.g. microfluidic devices. Postdoctoral scholars, graduate and undergraduate students will have an opportunity to be trained in this versatile fabrication technique.

This Major Research Instrumentation award supports the acquisition of a Heidelberg Instruments MLA-150 maskless lithography tool, with ~1 micrometer achievable feature size over a 150 mm field of exposure, with fast computer-controlled high-accuracy (0.5 micrometer) alignment and short (minutes-long) exposure times. The instrument includes two laser illumination modules and integrated cameras for high-accuracy alignment to pre-existing structures. The system will be integrated in a new Nanofabrication Central Facility (NCF) cleanroom at Brown University. This state-of-the-art instrument will foster interdisciplinary research at the intersection between diverse research fields in electronic and optoelectronic devices: fabrication of Ge quantum-dot based photodetectors; nitride vertical current flow transistors; piezoelectric energy harvesting devices; and magnetic tunnel junction-based memory elements and arrays. In the advanced materials area, it will contribute to: large-area surface patterning for THz emission spectroscopy; ultra-thin layered materials for structural coloration; templated surfaces for self-assembled nanoparticle arrays; 3D photocatalytic structures; and adaptive meta-surfaces based on phase-change materials. In the rapidly expanding bio-engineering area, the MLA-150 will permit large-area microfluidic structures to study spatially confined cell migration; DNA manipulation; and geometrically-constrained stem cell migration and differentiation. The instrument will be made available to other local academic institutions and local industry.

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.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Materials Research (DMR)
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Guebre Tessema
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Brown University
United States
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