A Strategic Equipment Award worth £2m from EPSRC has been awarded to Loughborough University to invest in a new sophisticated “thin film” equipment. This is known to be the first of its kind in the United Kingdom.
The newly developed hardware will enable physicists in the School of Science to quickly develop innovative functional nanodevices made of 2D materials like borophene, metal dichalcogenides and graphene.
It will be possible for researchers to make nanoscale structures for use in electronic circuits and chips, including those found in tablets, phones and computers without requiring a cleanroom.
Next-generation 2D materials exhibit unique potential and importance as a result of their special magnetic, electric, thermal and optical properties. This is the reason why they are completely different from bulk materials, which are affected by physical properties instead of surface area.
The new multichambered system consists of a glovebox. It is a sealed transparent container used for making air-sensitive samples that are fixed to three or more ultra-high vacuum chambers. The inclusion of a special lithography tool — the NanoFrazor Scholar from Heidelberg Instruments — will allow in-situ patterning of air-sensitive materials. It is a system that is yet to come into existence in the United Kingdom.
This system will be of great help to researchers to gain exclusive insights into the properties of 2D materials and incorporate them in modern functional devices for novel technologies, like developing quantum technologies or modern solar and thermoelectric energy harvesting devices.
Also, more research could result in radical innovation in artificially nanoengineered interfaces.
We plan to use thin films of 2D materials to design novel, nanometer-sized resistors and capacitors that can mimic the way how neural cells operate in the mammal brain, for example by changing their resistance and capacitance values after being exposed to series of electric voltage pulses.
Dr. Pavel Borisov, School of Science, Loughborough University
“The artificial electronic analogues, the so-called neuromorphics, are very promising for the next generation of electronic devices for artificial intelligence applications and would allow energy-efficient operation of neural networks,” added Dr. Borisov, who is one of the co-investigators of the grant.
It’s exciting to imagine the new physics that we will be able to explore with this equipment, such as the development of 2D metamaterials that would revolutionize Terahertz photonics or the next generation of computing.
Kelly Morrison, Professor, School of Science, Loughborough University
The equipment is anticipated to reach Loughborough University by the end of 2022.