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Wear-Resistant Diamond Tip Created for Nano-Manufacturing

William King (University of Illinois)

William King (University of Illinois)

Engineers at University of Illinois, University of Pennsylvania, and Advanced Diamond Technologies Inc. in Romeoville, Illinois, developed a diamond tip for nanoscale lithography better able to meet heat and wear demands of semiconductor manufacturing. The team led by Illinois engineering professor William King (pictured left) published its findings yesterday online in the journal Nanotechnology; free registration required.

Diamond tools have been available for nanoscale manufacturing processes in semiconductors, but their use has been limited by the combination of high speed and high temperatures, which can quickly degrade diamond-tipped instruments. “We have been working to shrink thermal processing to the nanometer scale,” says King, “where we can use a nanometer-scale heat source to add or remove material, or induce a physical or chemical reaction.”

King and colleagues describe their process for integrating an ultrananocrystalline diamond tip to a heated atomic force microscope cantilever, a device used in semiconductor fabrication, as well as arrays of atomic force microscope cantilevers. The solid-state heater on the device, report the authors, can reach 600 degrees celsius.

The diamond tip the team tested is 10 nanometers in size, where 1 nanometer equals 1 billionth of a meter. The study shows that the 10 nanometer diamond tip scanned in contact with a single-crystal silicon surface for a distance of some 1.2 meters, and suffered essentially no wear over that distance. Under the same conditions, report the authors, a silicon tip was completely blunted.

“The scan distance is equal to 100 million times the size of the tip,” says King. “That’s the equivalent of a person walking around the circumference of the earth four times, and doing so with no measurable wear.”

Advanced Diamond Technologies develops ultrananocrystalline diamond films for industrial applications, including micro-electromechanical systems, mechanical seals for pumps, and biomedical devices.

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