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Published on 19.10.15

Ireland's first NanoFab arrives for Nanoweek 2015

CRANN, Ireland’s leading nanoscience institute, based at Trinity College Dublin, has today announced the arrival of the Zeiss NanoFab - a multi-beam ion microscope, the most advanced machine of its kind available for imaging and machining at the nanoscale. This technology has several advantages over the traditional scanning electron microscope. The gallium, neon and helium ion beams integrated in a single instrument enable very high resolution imaging combined with nanomachining, making it possible to obtain qualitative data not achievable with conventional electron microscopes.  

The new NanoFab will be housed in CRANN’s Advanced Microscopy Laboratory (AML) located in the Trinity Technology and Enterprise Campus and is the first of its kind in Ireland. There are approximately 40 of these NanoFabs worldwide, with 12 in Europe.  The arrival of the microscope marks the launch of Nanoweek 2015, Ireland’s national awareness week of nanoscience and materials science which takes place from 19th to 24th October.

The NanoFab will improve our vision at the nanoscale, allowing us to see things we could never see before. The instrument combines very high resolution imaging of 0.5 nanometres (1 nanometre is one millionth of a millimetre) with the ability to machine nanostructures of less than 10 nanometres with speed and precision.

The ability to image, understand, and manipulate materials on shorter length scales is important in a huge range of research disciplines, from Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Medicine, Engineering and Natural Sciences. Microscopy is also critical to the development of new products and process improvements.  

Professor Valeria Nicolosi, Principal Investigator at CRANN, said: “NanoFAB offers Irish researchers and industry the most advanced tool of its kind worldwide for working with nanomaterials, including graphene, nanowires, and also biological samples such as cancer cells and tissues. There is a growing reliance on advanced microscopy for the most demanding research in materials and life sciences. Ultimately, our new instrument will enable our industry and academic users to accelerate their innovations.  It’s a tool that will allow us to see things that were never before visible, it offers new insights with images that have 5 to 10 times greater depth of field when compared to images acquired previously.”

In addition to providing high image resolution, the system can mill or remove a section out of a nanomaterial. It can do this nanomachining at great speed and achieve high throughput. Drilling precise pores into nanomaterials, such as graphene, in a way that retains its conductivity could be useful for applications such as faster DNA sequencing or other sensor applications. Creating precise lines of under 20 nanometres is also useful for future integrated circuit development.

Bernie Capraro, Research Manager, Intel Research and Development Ireland Ltd, said: “Intel welcomes the installation of the new Zeiss Nanofab in the Advanced Microscopy Laboratory. The possibilities of fabricating devices at length scales beyond state of the art is something that is important for the continued advancement of semiconductor technologies - adding to that the capability of imaging insulating materials at high resolution is an important development and we are excited to have access to such an advanced fabrication instrument.”

The NanoFab will be open for use to a range of researchers including those in AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) funded national materials centre based at CRANN as well as other SFI national centres across the country. It will also be open to academics in Europe as well as to industry.  

For initial enquiries about industry or academic access, contact the Central Equipment Facilities manager, Cathal McAuley, mcaulec@tcd.ie.
 

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