NANOREGION - A new impulse to nanofabrication thanks to Electronic Lithography tool installed at Cnr-Iom


The EBL expands the range of nanotechnology instrumentation used in the framework of the NANO-REGION cross-border project

Electronic Beam Lithography (EBL) is today the key manufacturing technique for the realization of nanometer-sized structures even on huge areas. An EBL was installed at the Cnr-Iom of Trieste in the Area Science Park to produce structures, sensors and devices of nanometric dimensions, as part of "NANO-REGION, an open network for innovation", a cross-border project between Italy and Slovenia which already boasts a wide range of nanotechnology instruments available to the scientific community.

Nanotechnologies are a reality already present in the products marketed and used in everyday life, with applications in design, furniture, electronics, sensors, biomedical, electronics and more. This technological sector may have further impetus from electronic lithography, a technique that shares with scanning electron microscopy (SEM) the use of an extremely collimated electron beam, with a diameter that is less than 1 nanometer. While in the SEM the beam illuminates the sample and the reflected electrons are used to create an image of the sample itself, with the EBL the electrons are used to engrave a sensitive material, for example polymethylmethacrylate (the common Plexiglas), modifying its chemical structure and resulting in the fabrication of nanostructures.

"There are two types of electrosensitive materials: those called 'positive resist', in which the areas exposed to the beam become soluble to a particular solvent, and those called 'negative', which instead harden under the beam", explains Simone Dal Zilio, researcher at Cnr-Iom and responsible for the instrumentation of NANO-REGION.

NANO-REGION is an Interreg Italy-Slovenia project now in its fourth and last year that makes nanotechnologies available to the industrial world. In particular, the project provides cross-border companies with advice on production and entrepreneurial problems, followed by the identification of nanotechnological solutions. Through the activation of a first virtual and then experimental path called Proof of Concept (PoC), which involves researchers and entrepreneurs, the know-how of the research institutes is shared with the industrial sector. The identified technological solutions are verified on real cases, thanks to the use of state-of-the-art equipment, to which EBL is now added. It is inserted within the CNR-Iom nanofabrication facility and installed in a class 1000 clean room, is unique in the cross-border region that includes Friuli Venezia Giulia, Veneto and Slovenia, and it can be of great interest also for other territories in the development of nanotechnologies.

"To date, 20 PoCs have already been carried out, which are real experiments whose results are published and made available for consultation by other companies through the website, thus multiply the knowledge and potential replicability of the solution adopted ”, Explains Mattia Fanetti of the University of Nova Gorica and responsible for NANO-REGION of the PoC activity.

"With the opening to users of the EBL, the latest born in the NANO-REGION house - concludes Marco Lazzarino, Principal Investigator of the project - I am sure that the already enthusiastic response of the local industrial sector will increase, to close a project that already gave us a lot of satisfaction".