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In This Issue

Vacuum Technologies Needed for 3D Device Processing
From Solid State Technologies, July 10, 2014, by Ed Korcaynski

"Future ICs will use more 3D device structures so vacuum deposition processes are needed that can produce conformal films on the tops, bottoms, and side-walls of features. New materials are needed as the commercial IC fabrication industry pushes the limits of device miniaturization, while industry consolidation drives the remaining players to use proprietary materials.

Even lithography needs more vacuum processing when double-, triple-, and quadruple-patterning schemes need sidewall spacer and sacrificial hard-mask depositions. All of this leads to a need for an unprecedented number of new chemical precursors for vacuum depositions to be simultaneously ramped into high-volume manufacturing (HVM) in fabs worldwide."

Image: Solid State Technology

IMEC and its Partners Achieve Record Efficiency for Large Area Industrial Crystalline-silicon n-PERT Solar Cell

From IMEC, July 8, 2014

"Nano-electronics research center imec, reported an n-type PERT crystalline silicon (Si) solar cell fabricated on a large area wafer (15.6cm x 15.6 cm) reaching a top conversion efficiency of 21.5 percent (calibrated at ISE Callab). This is the highest efficiency achieved for this type of solar cell on an industrial large area wafer size. This result will accelerate the adoption of n-type PERT (Passivated Emitter, Rear Totally diffused) solar cells in the industry as it clearly shows the potential for improved conversion efficiencies for next generation standard two side contacted crystalline silicon solar cells.

The rear passivation stack includes a thin (<10 nm) ALD Al2O3 layer, deposited with the spatial ALD technique InPassion Lab® from SoLayTec. The adoption of ALD Al2O3 based-passivation for the p+ emitter resulted in an average improvement in cell efficiency of about 0.3% absolute with respect to passivation by wet oxidation. This illustrates the excellent capabilities of ALD for passivation layers in next generation cell concepts like PERC and n-type PERT"

Image: IMEC

Novel Nanoparticle Production Method Could Lead to Better Lights, Lenses, Solar Cells

From Sandia National Laboratories
June 17, 2014


"Sandia National Laboratories has come up with an inexpensive way to synthesize titanium-dioxide nanoparticles and is seeking partners who can demonstrate the process at industrial scale for everything from solar cells LEDs. TiO2 nanoparticles show great promise as fillers to tune the refractive index of anti-reflective coatings on signs and optical encapsulants for LEDs, solar cells and other optical devices. Optical encapsulants are coverings or coatings, usually made of silicone, that protect a device. Industry has largely shunned TiO2 nanoparticles because they have been difficult and expensive to make, and current methods produce particles that are too large. Sandia's technique, on the other hand, uses readily available, low-cost materials and results in nanoparticles that are small, roughly uniform in size and don't clump."

Image: Randy Montoya/Sandia National Laboratories

New Adhesive Outperforms Gecko Feet

From Advanced Materials & Processes,
July 2014:

"The ability to stick objects to a variety of surfaces such as drywall, wood,, metal, and glass with a single adhesive has been the elusive goal of numerous researchers until now. A team from University of Massachusetts Amherst developed a new, more versatile version of their invention, Geckskin, which strongly adheres to a wider range of surfaces, yet releases easily like gecko's feet. Unlike other gecko-like materials, the invention does not rely on mimicking the nanoscopic hairs found on gecko feet, but instead builds on draping adhesion, which derives from the gecko's integrated skin-tendon-bone system."

Image: University of Massachusetts Amherst 

Silicene: To be or not to be?

From Argonne National Laboratory, July 24
by Justin H.S. Breaux:


"A recent study at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory has called into question the existence of silicene, thought to be one of the world's newest and hottest two-dimensional nanomaterials. The study may have great implications to a multi-billion dollar electronics industry that seeks to revolutionize technology at scales 80,000 times smaller than the human hair.

Silicene was proposed as a two-dimensional sheet of silicon atoms that can be created experimentally by super-heating silicon and evaporating atoms onto a silver platform. The Argonne team found out that what previous researchers identified as silicene is really just a combination of the silicon and the silver.

Source:  Argonne National Laboratory
Image: Argonne National Laboratory

Young Researcher Discovers Source of Disco Clams' Light Show

From UC Berkeley, June 24, 2014
by Robert Sanders


"Four years after falling in love with the disco clam - a cute little mollusk known for its underwater light show - Lindsey Dougherty has discovered the secret of its mirrored lips. Disco clams are named for the rippling, rhythmic light show they put on with their mirrored lips, visible even in the dim blue depths.

It didn't take long for her to confirm that the flashing was not, as most people assumed, a form of bioluminescence - a chemical reaction inside animals like plankton that produces light similar to that of a glow stick. Instead, she found, the edge of the clam's mantle lip is highly reflective on one side. When the clam unfurls its lip - typically twice a second - the millimeter-wide mirror is revealed and reflects the ambient light, like a disco ball.

Image: Lindsey Dougherty/UC Berkeley

Understanding Graphene's Electrical Properties on an Atomic Level

From University of Pennsylvania,
July 15, 2014


"Not all graphene is the same. With so few atoms comprising the entirety of the material, the arrangement of each one has an impact on its overall function. Now, for the first time, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have used a cutting-edge microscope to study the relationship between the atomic geometry of a ribbon of graphene and its electrical properties. The team's experiments were enabled by Brookhaven's aberration-corrected transmission electron microscope, or AC-TEM.

By focusing the microscope's electron beam, the researchers were able to controllably cut sheets of graphene into ribbons with widths as small as 10 nanometers. Because the graphene nanoribbons were connected to an electricity source while they were inside the AC-TEM, the researchers were able to simultaneously trace the outline of the ribbons and measure their conductivity." 

Image: Robert Johnson/University of Pennsylvania

DOE Awards $100 Million for Innovative Energy Research

From Department of Energy, (DOE)
June 18, 2014


"U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced the awarding of $100 million for Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) to accelerate the scientific breakthroughs needed to build the 21st-century energy economy. The awards announced today are the second round of funding for EFRCs and the research supported by this initiative will enable fundamental advances in energy production, storage, and use.

Twenty-three of the projects receiving funding are headed by universities, eight are led by the Energy Department's National Laboratories and one project is run by a non-profit organization. The centers selected for the second round of funding will help lay the scientific groundwork for fundamental advances in solar energy, electrical energy storage, carbon capture and sequestration, materials and chemistry by design, biosciences, and extreme environments.

Awards range from $2 million to $4 million per year per center for up to four fiscal years, subject to a progress review in year two. DOE plans to open the EFRC program to new applications every two years.

Image: Department of Energy


Light In, Light Out: 'The Rock' That Breaks the Rules

From University of Cambridge, June 26, 2014

"The lasing properties (published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters in March) were discovered when Friend's team measured the photoluminescence efficiency of the material, and found that up to 70% of absorbed photons were emitted under the right conditions. This led to the idea of sandwiching a thin layer of the lead halide perovskite between two mirrors to create an optically driven laser"

Image: University of Cambridge 
NREL Bolsters Batteries with Nanotubes

From NREL, June 1, 2014
by Bill Scanlon


"Researchers at the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are turning to extremely tiny tubes and rods to boost power and durability in lithium-ion batteries.

NREL's Energy Storage group is working with the Energy Department, automotive battery developers, and car manufacturers to enhance the performance and durability of advanced lithium-ion batteries for a cleaner, more secure transportation future, said Energy Storage Group Manager Ahmad Pesaran. Scientists at NREL have created crystalline nanotubes and nanorods to attack the major challenges inherent in lithium-ion batteries: they can get too hot, weigh too much, and are less than stellar at conducting electricity and rapidly charging and discharging

Image: Dennis Schroeder /NREL 

Improvements in MRIs, Passenger Screening, Other Image-detection Applications on the Horizon

From Sandia National Laboratory
June 11, 2014


"Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories, along with collaborators from Rice University and the Tokyo Institute of Technology, are developing new terahertz detectors based on carbon nanotubes that could lead to significant improvements in medical imaging, airport passenger screening, food inspection and other applications.

The researchers were able to wrap together several nanoscopic-sized tubes to create a macroscopic thin film that contains a mix of metallic and semiconducting carbon nanotubes. The technique is key  because it combines the superb terahertz absorption properties of the metallic nanotubes and the unique electronic properties of the semiconducting carbon nanotubes. This allows researchers to achieve a photodetector that does not require power to operate, with performance comparable to existing technology.

Image: Rice University
'Nano-pixels' Promise Thin, Flexible High-Resolution Displays

From Oxford University
July 9, 2014


"A new discovery will make it possible to create pixels just a few hundred nanometers across that could pave the way for extremely high-resolution and low-energy thin, flexible displays for applications such as 'smart' glasses, synthetic retinas, and foldable screens.

A team led by Oxford University scientists explored the link between the electrical and optical properties of phase change materials (materials that can change from an amorphous to a crystalline state). They found that by sandwiching a seven nanometer thick layer of a phase change material alloy Ge2Sb2Te5 (Germanium-Antimony-Tellurium or GST) between two layers of ITO electrode they could use a tiny current to 'draw' images within the sandwich 'stack'.

Initially still images were created using an atomic force microscope but the team went on to demonstrate that such tiny 'stacks' can be turned into prototype pixel-like devices. These 'nano-pixels' - just 300 by 300 nanometers in size - can be electrically switched 'on and off' at will, creating the colored dots that would form the building blocks of an extremely high-resolution display technology.

Image: Oxford University
British Breakthrough in World's Darkest Material Launched at Farnborough International

From Surry Nanosystems
July 9, 2014


"Sensitive electro-optical imaging and target-acquisition systems will achieve new levels of range and sensitivity performance thanks to a UK company's breakthrough in developing a 'super black' material to be launched at the Farnborough International Air Show. Surrey NanoSystems' Vantablack® is revolutionary in its ability to be applied to light-weight, temperature-sensitive structures such as aluminum while absorbing 99.96% of incident radiation, believed to be the highest-ever recorded.

Vantablack is the result of applying Surrey NanoSystems' patented low-temperature carbon nanotube growth process to the UK Technology Strategy Board's 'Space for Growth' program, working alongside the National Physical Laboratory and Enersys' ABSL Space Products division.

Source:  Surrey Nanosystems
Image: Surrey Nanosystems
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14th International Conference on Plasma Surface Engineering 

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September 15-19, 2014
Kongresshaus, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

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Thursday, September 18, 2014
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The biennial PSE conference series is organized by the European Joint Committee on Plasma and Ion Surface Engineering. PSE provides an opportunity to present recent progress in research and development and industrial applications. Its topics span a wide range from fundamentals such as process modeling and simulation of plasmas or thin film physics, through empirical studies, which establish the relationships between process parameters and the structural and functional properties of modified surfaces and/or thin films, towards the application in industrial production.


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