Because staff members maintain tools and provide process oversight, laboratory process capability will become limited by the number of staff in the NanoFab. Six major new tools are coming online in 2011: a chemical mechanical polishing tool (CMP), an ion mill, an aligner from ASML (a provider of lithography systems for the semiconductor industry), two FIB systems, and a TEM. The project count has increased 40 percent per year for the past 2 years. The present staffing level will likely be required to increase to sustain future additional tooling or future increases in laboratory processing initiatives.
The NanoFab clean-room facility has an impressive array of the most modern commercially available tools for micro- and nanofabrication. The physical facility is excellent, with a clean room and other laboratory space configured for easy access to a wide suite of modern fabrication tools. The equipment capabilities are as modern and complete as in any similar facility in the United States with which the panel is familiar.
Over the past 2 years, several new pieces of equipment have been brought online and added to the laboratory capabilities. It appears that most of the tools are characterized and available for general use, with the exception of one of the electron-beam systems. Focused-ion-beam and electron-beam lithography represent the core nanoscale fabrication tools, with sets of deposition, etching, and metrology tools for use in a modest level of process integration for research-scale devices. Although photolithography capability above 1 micrometer is available with several contact printing systems, a needed capability for higher-resolution photolithography is planned with the upcoming acquisition of an i-line stepper. Projects seem primarily to be directed toward a range of inorganic materials, including various semiconductors, metals, graphene, and a limited number of organic materials.
The nanofabrication laboratory facilitates a wide range of projects for NIST researchers and, to a lesser extent, activity for academic institutions and industry. Neither a complete summary of projects and users nor a list of projects with users was provided for evaluation by the panel. The quality of the research examples that were presented as being facilitated by the laboratory ranged from highly innovative work to somewhat limited use of less sophisticated processes such as thin-film deposition. Limitations in activity and research facilitated by this laboratory are not due to equipment limitations, but rather to staff availability and the need to prioritize the projects to be supported.
As noted, the process activities of the NanoFab program are aligned with the mission of the CNST and NIST. The NanoFab staff is well managed, operates a nanofabrication user facility, and supports the research mission of serving NIST, academia, and industry in measurement activities. The reported increase in both the number of users and of processing hours over the past 2 years in the NanoFab clean room further serves to verify the alignment of the NanoFab with both its mission and the CNST mission.
The NanoFab does not appear to have independent research programs, in contrast to the three other research groups comprising the CNST. Rather, the NanoFab staff’s understanding of its role, and consequently the NanoFab mode of operation, has been to maintain the