Insights from industry

Characterization Techniques of PAC-G


In this interview, AZoM talks to Rafael Varela Della Giustina, Business developer at PAC-G, about the capabilities of PAC-G, and who it would serve best.

Could you give our readers an overview of what the Platform for Advanced Characterisation Grenoble (PAC-G) is, and how it was created?

The Platform for Advanced Characterisation Grenoble (PAC-G) is a single entry point for characterization services that are provided by the large-scale facilities of Grenoble. These are; The European Synchrotron (ESRF), which is the most productive synchrotron light in the world. It has more than 40 state-of-the-art beamlines and they are just completing an upgrade to become first fourth-generation high-energy synchrotron in the world; The European Neutron Source (ILL), which is also the world’s flagship neutron facility. It is the most powerful research reactor in the world. We have more than 40 instruments dedicated to science and industrial; One other facility that is part of the PAC-G is the GENESIS Neutron Generator at the LPSC-CNRS: a 14 MeV neutrons generator that is mainly used for irradiation hardness testing of electronics.

The particularity of PAC-G is that we promote access to these service facilities for industry, in particular for microelectronics companies that come here to perform characterization tests as well as research programs. One thing that is important to stress is that PAC-G is not a company. PAC-G is a gateway, a brand of this consortium, as we think that using a single-entry point will attract more users.

PAC-G was created in the frame of the French Technological Research Institute (IRT) Nanoelec (ANR-10-AIRT-05), whose aim is to foster interactions between the public and private sectors in the field of micro- and nano-electronics and to establish the leadership of the French and the European microelectronics industry. PAC-G is part of Nanoelec’s Large-Scale Characterisation Technological Programme.

What is innovative about PAC-G?

What is innovative about PAC-G is that we are providing user access with no proposal as a service, where confidentiality is guaranteed. Of course, the company wishing to benefit from these services has to pay for the beam time and for the scientific assistance that they want and need. You have to keep in mind that standard access this type of facility is free but based solely on its scientific excellence and publication of results is mandatory. PAC-G makes is simple and easier for companies to have commercial, proprietary access with full confidentiality.  

Another thing that is innovative about the project is that we offer full service in a fast and cost-competitive manner. This means that  PAC-G proposes access but also if the client wants, we can perform the measurements and the data analysis, and we can help with the interpretation of the results. So, this full-service approach is really innovative in these types of facilities.

Another interesting thing with PAC-G is that we will position these services in a market with dedicated people to manage clients. We mainly address microelectronics and semiconductor companies, and PAC-G helps to bridge the gap between the research that we do here and the needs of applied research.

Could you explain how the platform is used for different types of techniques, from characterization to failure analysis?

We propose that companies come to us with a problem and starting from that problem we begin discussions on possible solutions exploiting the complementarities of different types of neutron and X-rays techniques offered by PAC-G. We promote discussions between the scientists in order to find the best technique to address the challenge. A simple and clear quotation will be issued derived from the beam time needed and depending on the service chosen, it will also include measurements, data analysis, and reporting. We can also work with experts that know precisely what they want.

To give an example of the things that we can propose, one of the applications is failure analysis. If you take a look at the imaging techniques we have, we propose synchrotron X-ray and neutron microtomography and synchrotron X-ray nano-tomography.

With that, we are able to see the morphology, the defects, the cracks and the porosity inside microstructures non-destructively, with unmatched detail and all in 3D. This is particularly interesting if you want to understand something as it happens and in a dynamic way as well.

What are the advantages of using PAC-G’s large-scale facilities for research?

One of the main things that we have here is the fact that we can do a multiscale approach and multimodal analysis, which is particularly interesting when we are going to understand something and not only to detect something. So, the advantage of using large-scale facilities is that you can do in-situ and in-operando studies or anything that involves dynamic investigations.

We can also do a lot of non-destructive testing. It is quite interesting for a lot of things in the microelectronics industry, especially for your analysis. We have unmatched detection capabilities with the synchrotron X-rays, and complementarity with neutrons because these interact with lighter elements like hydrogen and boron, which is used a lot in microelectronics. 

We can also detect water with neutrons, which is particularly interesting, and because we have a lot of flux, we can take a lot of very fast imaging. This particular interaction is necessary when you are going to do any type of dynamic observation when you are going to observe phenomena as it is happening.

Which industries will benefit from PAC-G?

The main markets we address are micro- and nano-electronics and semiconductor material companies. We also have strong activity in radiation hardness testing for high-reliability markets such as aerospace, automotive, and big data. PAC-G can also put you in contact with the right people inside these facilities for your problems and challenges no matter what industry.


Image Credit: Glitterstudio/

How is sample preparation performed at PAC-G? 

At PAC-G we can do simple sample preparation (cleaning, polishing, etc.). For more advanced sample preparation, we have a partnership with SERMA Technologies, a company that has more than 20 years of experience in the microelectronics market. In this partnership, SERMA Technologies will take care of the sample preparation if you need it and help to find the best solution to your problem.

Similarly, what are the laboratory techniques that can be performed at PAC-G?

The focus of the PAC-G is synchrotron X-ray and neutron characterization techniques that push the limits of standard laboratory equipment. It means we propose to go steps beyond what companies can find in the lab-based techniques.

Our partnership with SERMA Technologies allows us to offer several advanced and standard laboratory characterization techniques that are complementary in nature to PAC-G techniques. These capabilities allow us to overcome virtually any challenge in the semiconductor industry.

What is the PAC-G vision for the next 10 years?

The PAC-G is establishing itself as a player in the new technological developments in microelectronics and in the semiconductors industry, and be a partner in the developments of new technologies, as a one-stop-shop for routine characterization services for industrial R&D. We also aim to develop a center of expertise in the field of radiation hardness testing, one of our main activities today.

About Rafael Varela Della Giustina

Rafael Varela Della GiustinaAs business development manager for the Platform for Advanced Characterisation Grenoble (PAC-G), Rafael is in charge of promoting and selling the characterization services provided by the large-scale facilities of Grenoble within the frame of the IRT Nanoelec. His mission is to develop PAC-G's business and technical knowledge in the semiconductors industry, nurturing long-term relationships with its leading players and meeting their needs. Prior to that, Rafael worked several years leading complex engineering projects and developing strategic R&D programs in the Energy sector in South America. Rafael holds an M.Sc. in Microelectronics from UFRGS, Brazil and from Ecole Centrale de Marseille, France as well as an MBA from Paris-Dauphine University.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.


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