Instrumentation, tooling and metrology essentially involves a set of enabling technologies and techniques. In consequence, its influence is far greater than is reflected in the size of the economic sectors that produce these products. Successful exploitation of nanotechnology will depend on these tools. They provide the instrumentation needed to examine and characterise devices and effects during the R&D phase, the manufacturing techniques that will allow the large scale, economic production of nanotechnology products, and the necessary metrology support for quality control. The requirement is for fast, versatile instrumentation and tooling for the economic production of nanotechnological devices. Instrumentation and tooling will need to evolve as long as nanotechnology is a developing field.
Current and Future Markets for Nanotechnology Tools and Instruments
Current global markets are large. Chemical vapour deposition (CVD) equipment has an annual sale of almost $5 billion with an estimated annual growth of 11 per cent. Sales of scanning probe microscopy are estimated to be $500 million. Software for molecular modelling has annual sales of around $2 billion. All of these application markets are likely to grow considerably. Demand for such instrumentation is likely to take off when the mass production of nanotechnological devices starts in earnest.
Technical Challenges Faced by Manufacturers of Nanotechnology Tools and Instruments
The benchmarking study identified the following major technical challenges:
• Chemical analysis methods for lateral resolution levels below 100 nm.
• Chemical analysis methods that will work in poor vacuums (these are particularly important for biological applications).
• Surface patterning techniques that will permit rapid embossing, stamping, that is contact printing nanoscale features over areas that are large in relation to the nanoscale.
• Developments of tools and standards for nanometrology for quality control, and so on. The requirement here is for: faster systems; progress in nanopositioning (transition and actuators) to characterise 3-D topography at the nanometre level; as well as characterising functionality of systems combining physical, chemical and biological functions in bionanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS) systems.
Global Competition in the Nanotechnology Tools Sector - USA, Japan and Germany
Instrumentation, tooling and metrology require a wide range of skills for a wide range of products. No one country is pre-eminent in all of these applications. The USA, Japan and Germany each lead in some areas. Germany is in many ways similar to the UK in its academic research and commercial environment. Like the UK, Germany faces skills shortages: scientific and engineering staff training numbers are too low, and students are attracted to other careers. But Germany does feature specific strengths. It has a major manufacturer (Omicron) of scanning probe microscopes (SPM) as well as semiconductor manufacturing (Siemens), and thus a strong MEMS industry.
Nanotechnology Tools in the UK - an Overview
Instrumentation has long been an area of strength for the UK. There are strong UK academic research groups and world class companies operating in many of the areas related to nanotechnology. However, the UK lacks a commercial manufacturer of SPMs. It also lags behind Germany in facilities for microfabrication, such as MEMs foundries. The UK and Germany have strong academic research in nanosurfaces and indigenous world class manufacturers of instrumentation for chemical analysis of surfaces.
Nanopositioning and Nanometrology in the UK - Strengths and Weaknesses
In nanopositioning and nanometrology, too, each country has a world-class company developing displacement actuators and translation stages for the nanometre domain, and national standards laboratories active in these fields. The UK’s leading companies are relatively small and few, running the risk of overseas acquisition. Companies in the UK that serve this application area are disparate and mostly oriented to specific niche markets. One implication is that alliances between them would not seem to be particularly profitable as a way to greater strength. Shortage of scientific and engineering staff caused by better job and remuneration prospects in other careers is a pervasive problem: the UK lacks institutes such as the German Fraunhofer Institutes to train and nurture skilled engineers and technologists.
What Will Be the Main Drivers of Change in the Nanotechnology Tools Sector?
A major driver will be demand for the applications from industry. The emergence of techniques and devices from the research laboratories with real world applications will drive efforts to mass produce them in a cost-effective manner. Instrumentation and tooling will be required to manufacture and characterise the new products, while a coherent measurement system will be required to underpin trade and promote a viable market.
The Importance of Setting Up Foundries for Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) and Nanoelectromechanical Systems (NEMS)
Development of instrumentation, tooling and metrology is liable to be shaped by applications that emerge in other areas. Conversely, the availability of tools for large-scale manufacturing could be key enablers for markets to develop. An important driver will be the availability of foundries for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS) and even Bio-NEMS.
Manufacturing Chemical Products at Molecular Level - Another Important Industry Driver
Another driver will be the ability to have exquisite control of the production of chemical products at the molecular level. Such disruptive technologies will support such products as devices to enable new means of energy production and storage, new approaches to food manufacture, and new chemicals for personal products.
The Market Sectors Most Likely to Lead the Way in Using Nanotechnology Tools for their Products
Without the tools, nothing can be made. But the costs of developing the instrumentation and tooling for manufacture based on nanotechnology are often too high and too risky for companies to undertake without a clear high volume market. Some markets with this characteristic are the ‘fast moving consumer goods’, such as foods, drugs, micro electronic systems and devices. These are likely to spearhead the use of the applications, enabling progressive cost reduction.
What Will UK Success in the Field of Nanotechnology Tools Look Like?
A success scenario can be characterised in the following terms:
• In 2006 the UK’s instrument and tooling industry will be selectively serving global markets for applications in areas where the UK is strong - for example, drugs, optoelectronics, solar power, healthcare.
• There will be opportunities to create major new markets where there are disruptive technologies, such as in soft lithography and software modelling. High-resolution lithographic equipment will be available, producing 50 nm scale devices over surfaces of 25 mm and more, thereby producing 10,000,000 devices on the surface. Software (organic) models will be available, with the UK’s share of the market growing rapidly from a base of 25 per cent. However, the UK will not manage to gain a significant presence in the scanning probe microscope (SPM) market.
• There will be global markets with a high export content. These will be served in the UK by new start-up companies, in a non-traditional industry using new technologies. The skilled people to service these markets will be available as a result of initiatives to address current shortages. The infrastructure (foundries) to fabricate demonstrator products will be in place, serving a growing SME base.
• A new paradigm will emerge in chemical and biochemical production. This will be based on the use of nanotechnology, and tools derived from it, and instruments that provide manufacturers with exquisite control over structure and reproducibility. This type of production will generate less pollution while supporting many new products. The new paradigm should eventually have major effects on GDP, but these will only become apparent on a timescale beyond five years.
Which Features Will Enable the UK to Achieve Success in the Nanotechnology Tools Sector?
Critical factors that can enable the realisation of this scenario will be the availability of skilled people and fabrication facilities, along with a market structure that responds to the likely disruptive nature of the technologies, such as with a strongly supported SME base. It will be necessary for industry to capitalise on the innovative academic resources. There will have to be ways to work around the small size of the UK semiconductor industry. Another important enabler is finance for the development of these applications. ‘Joined up’ Government in the area should address this, and especially the perceived gap in infrastructure and funding for producing demonstrators.
What Are the Indicators of Success in the Nanotechnology Tools Sector?
If the UK is to achieve this scenario we should see developments in the years from 2001 to 2006 along the lines of those reflected in the following indicators:
• The increased application of ‘top down’ ultraprecision machining to a huge range of industrial manufacture, improving numerous ‘traditional’ high technology products as well as generating new products.
• Co-ordinated commercial facilities would be established that service growing SME start-ups. Such facilities would enable demonstrator production and manufacturing, and use of MEMS fabrication technology. They could also be facilitating new disruptive NEMS and bio- NEMS fabrication tools. Indicators relevant to this could be that such a facility would be:
• generating new spin-offs and start-ups growing at a tenfold increase per year from a base of one SME;
• enabling training of 50 or more new designers and nanoengineers per year;
• providing prototyping & small-run manufacturing for 50 new customers per year.
• The UK’s share of software modelling for the nanotechnology market will be growing at 10 per cent per year from its current base of 25 per cent, by 2006.
• The first novel material or structure based on these applications will have been developed and mass-produced in the UK by 2006.
• More than five UK companies will be using directed self-assembly based on ‘disruptive’ methods as a routine tool by 2006 (from a base of one today).
What Does the UK Need to Achieve Success in Manufacturing Nanotechnology Tools and Instruments?
• Establish institutes that are closer to the German model of the Fraunhofer Institutes than to Faraday Partnerships; provide these with start up funding of £50m (on a Government/private-public partnership basis).
• Preferential grants for students in science, technology and engineering. In addition to Government, industry could play a role in funding schemes.
• Training programmes for science teachers in schools oriented to encourage more awareness of, interest in, and recruitment of promising students into fields related to this application area. (Again, in addition to Government, industry could play a role in such schemes.)
• Develop and improve technology roadmaps in a range of areas of nanotechnology, to help to pull through demand for specific instrument technologies and indicate the required tooling and metrology infrastructure that will be needed for production, taking account of possible disruptive technologies. There is a role here for Government, the EC, academics and research and technology organisations and industry.
• Research Councils should fund directed research programmes in the manufacture of novel structured materials. 57