The NL-UHV — Cluster source for generation and deposition of alloy Nanoparticles

The Nikalyte NL-UHV cluster source enables the generation and deposition of elemental and alloy nanoparticles in Ultra-High vacuum onto users’ samples to create a functionalized surface. The properties of the nanoparticle coatings can be customized via accurate control over the composition, size and structure of the nanoparticles. 

In contrast to chemical methods, the NL-UHV generates ultra-pure nanoparticles in vacuum and as no chemicals are used in the synthesis the nanoparticles are free from hydrocarbons and ligands.

The density of the film can also be tuned from disperse nanoparticle coatings to 3D nanoporous layers. The nanocoating itself can be loosely bound or greatly adherent to the surface of the sample. 

The nanoparticles arrive at the substrates with very low energy and so the substrate remains at room temperature throughout the deposition, enabling deposition onto a vast range of materials and substrates including delicate surfaces, such as graphene.

The NL-UHV comes with a single 1″, 2″ source or a triple 1″ source, the NL-DX3. The NL-DX3 enables the deposition of up to three materials at once, enabling the generation of alloy nanoparticles or co-deposiiton of two or three materials at the same time.

For the ultimate control of nanoparticle deposition, the Nikalyte NL-QMS mass filter enables the deposited nanoparticles to be filtered or scanned by mass or nanoparticle diameter in real-time. The mass filter enables users to monitor and adjust the growth conditions of the nanocoatings as they are being deposited. The NL-QMS is controlled using simple and intuitive WindowsTM software.

Applications of the NL-UHV

  • Life Sciences and Nanomedicine: Cancer therapies, biofilms, drug delivery, antiviral and antimicrobial
  • Graphene: Electronics, sensors, composites, and energy storage
  • Photonics: Light-harvesting, photovoltaics, and surface-enhanced Raman
  • Catalysis: Electrochemistry, photocatalysis, fuel cells, and air or water purification
  • Sensors: Biosensors, optical, SERS electrochemical, and electrical

Deposition Source Options

Choice of magnetron sources from single source options or triple head NL-DX3 source. All sources can be operated with dc or pulsed dc power supplies.

1 Inch or 2 Inch Sources

  • High deposition rates range up to mg/cm2/second
  • Deposition from a single elemental or alloy target

DX3-triple 1 Inch Source

  • Three different materials can be loaded at once
  • Alloy nanoparticles can be generated
  • Alternate elemental nanoparticles can be deposited
  • Independent power control for each each target

NL-D2 (left) and NL-DX3 (right) source options for NL-UHV.

NL-D2 (left) and NL-DX3 (right) source options for NL-UHV. Image Credit: Nikalyte Ltd

NL-UHV Source Specifications

Table 1. Source: Nikalyte Ltd

  NL-D1 NL-D2 NL-DX3
Number of Sputter Targets 1 1 3
Sputter Target dimensions 1 inch (25.4 mm)
0.5-3 mm thick
2 inch (50.6 mm)
0.5-3 mm thick
1 inch (25.4 mm)
0.5-3 mm thick
Power Supply 1 x 630V dc 1 x 630V dc 3 x 630V dc
Source Output 75W dc 100W dc 3 x 75W dc


Nanoparticle Deposition

Nanoparticles are formed in vacuum via a process known as a gas terminated deposition. It is possible for users to regulate the properties of the nanoparticle coatings by altering a range of process parameters.

The parameters include gas type, gas flow, magnetron power (including pulse frequency and duty cycle for pulsed dc operation), and aggregation length (Lg) or via altering the aggregation zone aperture size.

Vary Nanoparticle Size Distribution

  • Nanoparticle size ranges from 1 to 20 nm

Vary Nanocoating Layer Density

  • Sub monolayer to 3D nanoporous coverage 
  • Loosely bound to highly adherent coatings

Control Nanoparticle Structure

  • Amorphous or crystalline structures
  • Control over nanoparticle shape

Icosohedral gold nanoparticle.

Icosahedral gold nanoparticle. Image Credit: Nikalyte Ltd

Typical Copper Nanoparticle distributions.

Typical Copper Nanoparticle distributions. Image Credit: Nikalyte Ltd

Deposition control.

Deposition control. Image Credit: Nikalyte Ltd

Nanoparticle Size Control

When used in-line with the NL-UHV, the NL-QMS can be utilized to examine and also filter the nanoparticle beam. It is possible for users to easily switch between measurement and filter mode to deposit customized nanocoatings. 

Measure in-Flight Mass Spectra

  • Mass range varies from 100 to 106 amu
  • Examine the mass spectrum of nanoparticles in flight

NL-QMS kit.

NL-QMS kit. Image Credit: Nikalyte Ltd

NL-QMS control software.

NL-QMS control software. Image Credit: Nikalyte Ltd

Filter Nanoparticle Size

  • Mass resolution in filter mode is +/− 2%
  • Choose nanoparticle mass to pass through filter

Intuitive Software

  • WindowsTM based software 
  • Preloaded mass calibration data available for common materials
  • Enter parameters for new alloys or materials
  • Complete control over QMS operation and scan settings
  • Data logging of mass spectra

Ultra-pure Nanoparticles from a Choice of Materials

The NL-UHV makes use of magnetron sputtering to produce a beam of ultra-pure nanoparticles in vacuum. Nanoparticles can be generated from any conductive material or metal including magnetic materials. Pulsed dc power operation is recommended for semiconducting materials, e.g. Si or Ge. 

The NL-UHV—for the Generation and Deposition of Nanoparticles

Image Credit: Nikalyte Ltd

Listed below are the characteristics of nanoparticles:

  • Ultra-pure and hydrocarbon free
  • Produced from 99.999% solid source material
  • Extensive choices of inorganic materials, such as Au, Cu, Ag, Pt, Ni, Ir, Ti and Zr
  • No cross-contamination when switching source materials
  • Compound nanoparticles like oxides and nitrides can be produced

Technical Information

The NL-UHV—for the Generation and Deposition of Nanoparticles

Image Credit: Nikalyte Ltd

Table 2. Source: Nikalyte Ltd

Mounting Flange DN160CF DN160CF
Power 630V dc or pulsed dc 100-250 Vac
4 Amp fuse
Gas Argon/Helium
2-100 Sccm
Cooling Jacket Water or LN2
Flow rate 2l/min (0.52 US GPM)
Pumping 120 L/m (4.2 CFM) Backing pump
300 L/m (10.6 CFM) Turbo pump
Aperture plates 2 mm, 3 mm, 4 mm and 5 mm aperture plates
supplied as standard

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