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Nano-Scale Things Come in Big Packages

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Pine Forest Mt by Reza Abbaspour (ECE) is composed of copper grains vertically growing on sidewalls of etch trench. Image captured on the Hitachi 4700, Marcus Nanotechnology Building.

Walking towards the Marcus Nanotechnology Building on my first day at work at the Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology – or IEN for short – I was greeted by the sign, “Marcus Nano Loading Dock” causing me to giggle and think “…they must have really small trucks.” However, upon entering the building through the enormous glass doors, it was I who suddenly felt small. A three story gallery hall runs the depth of the building. Windows run the length of the spacious gallery, with an outside view to the right and clean-room space visible to the left. Researchers in full protective suits working at various tools in the cleanrooms behind the glass coupled with the silence and height of the gallery space makes one feel as if she has entered a strange monastic environment.

With a total of 188,000-sq-ft divided into 30,000 sq. ft. of clean-room space and 90,000 sq. ft. of collaborative laboratory, imaging, administrative, and meeting space, the Marcus Nanotechnology Building is the most advanced nanotechnology research facility in the Southeast, the first of its kind in the region, and among the most sophisticated in the country. The site houses a Class 10 clean room, where there is a maximum of 10 particles per cubic foot of air - none of them larger than 0.5 microns . Compare that with a typical office environment, which contains more than a million such particles per cubic foot, and the term “clean” in “cleanroom” seems like massive understatement. Additionally, the site houses an advanced microscopy and characterization suite on the basement level with special features that rival those in the cleanrooms for their attention to detail.

Officially open May of 2014 with the installation of the first analysis tool, a Hitachi HT7700 TEM, the Microscopy and Characterization Suite is coordinated by Walter Henderson, Research Engineer and Bio-Characterization Team Lead for the IEN, who took time out of his busy schedule to introduce me to the unique aspects of the suite and its current and future capabilities.

Q: How long was the concept for the Microscopy Suite in the works from inception to doors open?

A: One could maintain that the idea for the laboratory was incorporated into the planning stages of the Marcus building itself – literally from the ground up.  The conduit that runs through the foundation and walls in the microscopy suite is fiberglass instead of metal in order to minimize any induced electromagnetic fields.  Additionally, equipment in adjacent electrical and mechanical rooms is shielded and vibrationally damped to further reduce background noise. These early construction decisions were made by people with foresight who anticipated someday housing highly-sensitive microanalytical equipment in the Level 0 space.

Q: What makes this suite unique in Atlanta, and in Georgia?

A: While there are other micro-imaging and microanalysis facilities both on-campus and in the Atlanta area, almost all were either retrofitted or not originally adapted at all for the purpose.  This is the largest and most modern laboratory in the Atlanta area, and in the State of GA, constructed from the beginning with the express purpose of housing microscopy tools that have the most stringent environmental requirements.

Q: What are the future plans for the space?

A: One of the IEN Characterization Team’s main goals is that the capabilities of this lab not be static and that they will change and grow to fit the needs of our academic and industry constituents.  So it is my plan that a visitor will see – or be able to do – something different, or at least better, if they come back in a year’s time.

Plans currently in the works include, upgrading the software and hardware on our Zeiss SEM to make its operation more reliable and greatly enhance its ability to do elemental analysis through EDS; getting our users to fully evaluate a new state-of-the-art SEM which we have from Hitachi on a 6-month consignment; and adding tools to our prep lab to enhance sample preparation and – ultimately – information obtained on our tools. The team is also discussing adding options to do in-situ mechanical, thermal, and chemical testing in some of the SEMs and possibly some of the other analysis tools as well. Finally, we are working closely with GT administration and faculty in the IEN, IMat and other IRIs and Schools on campus to chart a course for long-term satisfaction of the research community’s imaging and analysis needs.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of the new space/tool/process that can be performed in Marcus Microscopy Suite?

A: It sounds trite, but personally I think that bringing smart dedicated users into proximity with one other – and with dedicated, knowledgeable staff – will only help the quantity and quality of ideas that are generated here.  It’s gratifying that whether by chance encounter or by design, we will have a hand in helping users see something that they hadn’t seen – or couldn’t see – before.  And in some cases, we may help user see things that nobody in human history has ever seen before.

With the variety of techniques available and the close proximity of faculty, staff and external users, the concentration of tools in the suite makes it a unique locus for intellectual cross-pollination.

Q: Do you have any other comments you would like to make?

A: Regarding getting the current toolset moved and back up and running over the past 8 weeks, I want to mention my team by name for a job well done: many thanks to Jie Xu, Eric Woods, Rathi Monikandan and, in particular, Todd Walters.

As I walk up the stairs and back out through the soaring and silent entry gallery, a statement Walter made about the space really hits home, “…Plus it really is a ‘Beautiful’ space.  If places like CERN are cathedrals of science, then this lab is a picturesque chapel – small and quiet and hopefully equally profound on some level.”

The Microscopy Suite and Cleanrooms in the Marcus Building are available for campus-based and external users. Below is a list of the microscopy capabilities currently available. For more information on how to become a user, please visit the IEN Cleanroom website at this link. To learn more about the Microscopy Suite, contact Walter Henderson at walter.henderson@ien.gatech.edu.

---Christa M. Ernst, IEN Communications

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Wood Lace by Allison Tolbert. Image captured with Olympus DSX-500.


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Spider (Genus Unknown) by Ross Hutchinson. Image captured with Hitachi 5700 VPSEM at 32x magnification.


Contact Information

Teresa Hunton
Manager
Communications
Georgia Tech Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology
Phone: 404.385.0427
Contact

Christa Ernst
Communications Assistant
Georgia Tech Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology
Phone: 404.894.1665
Contact

 

Overview of Marcus Microscopy Suite

Tool: FEI Nova 200 FIB/SEM
Previous Location
: Pettit 160
New Location:
G125D
Capabilities:
Dual-beam FIB/SEM for nano-machining of features down to ~50 nm and imaging down to ~3 nm.

Tool: Hitachi HT7700 TEM
Previous Location:
Organic Cleanroom
New Location:
G125B
Capabilities
: 120 kV STEM with high-res mode for materials (up to 1,000,000 X), and high-contrast mode for organic samples.

Tool: Hitachi SU8230 SEM
Previous Location: On temporary loan from Hitachi
New Location: G139B
Capabilities:
State-of-the-art FE-SEM with high-resolution at low voltage (1.1 nm @ 1kV) and sub-nm resolution at higher voltages (0.8 nm @ 15 kV).

Tool: Hysitron Nanoindenter
Previous Location:
Pettit 161
New Location:
G130
Capablities
: Performs nanoindentation, nanotribology, and SPM imaging measurements from ~0.1 to 1500 mN on a wide variety of samples to determine mechanical properties.

Tool: IONTOF ToF-SIMS
Previous Location:
Pettit 161
New Location:
G125E
Capabilities:
Ability to detect and differentiate all elements and most chemical compounds up to >1000 AMU at concentrations < 1 ppm.

Tool: Kratos XPS
Previous Location
: Organic cleanroom
New Location
: G130
Capablilities:
Combined XPS/UPS system can probe both core and valence level molecular bonding to reveal details of surface chemistry.

Tool: Thermo Raman
Previous Location
: Pettit 248
New Location:
G130
Capabilities: Confocal Raman microscope provides distinct chemical ID and structural information on a wide variety of samples. Laser wavelengths: 785 and 488 nm.

Tool: Thermo K-Alpha XPS
Previous Location:
Organic cleanroom
New Location:
G130
Capablilities: Automated XPS system can map core level molecular bonding to reveal details of surface and subsurface (with integrated depth profile) chemistry.

Tool: Veeco AFM
Previous Location: Pettit 160
New Location
: G125A
Capabilities:
System measures dimensions and can simultaneously give electrical and mechanical properties of samples with < 20 nm lateral resolution and < 1 nm vertical resolution.

Tool: Zeiss Ultra 60 SEM
Previous Location
: Pettit 160
New Location
: G131
Capabilities
: Advanced FE-SEM with ~2 nm resolution and EDS capability.