LONDON Technology venture company IP Group has teamed up with scientists from the University of Surrey's Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) and CEVP Ltd, a leader in plasma tool manufacture, to form Surrey NanoSystems, which will develop and make tools for producing nanomaterials.
The joint venture is being financed by IP Group (London, England) as the first spin-out from a deal sealed in February to commercialize technologies developed at the University.
The so called NanoGrowth Machine, developed in collaboration with plasma tools specialist CEVP Ltd., is said to be the "world's first commercial tool for low-temperature growth of carbon nanotubes, which can provide high quality, high speed connections to the next generation of silicon chips."
The researchers say the low temperatures used permit the use of existing silicon semiconductor materials which are not able to withstand the high growth temperatures previously required for the formation of nanotubes.
Whereas carbon nanotubes grown by chemical vapor deposition normally need to be processed at temperatures in excess of 700C, they suggest that with the plasma-enhanced process used in NanoGrowth, the growth substrate's temperature can be lowered considerably. This opens up many potential applications, allowing carbon nanotubes to be grown with precision even on highly heat sensitive materials.
Early versions of the machine have been used to grow carbon nanotubes repeatably on 3 inch wafers, with the potential to scale up to 12 inch substrates.
The research project was also funded by South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) which provided assistance with the early development work. SEEDA's funding injection of £215,000 raised raised the project's development capital to £450,000.
The participants suggest potential applications for the process include the development of low-resistance nanowires in integrated circuits, semiconducting nanotubes for fabricating high performance transistors, micro-miniature heatsinks, ultra-tough polymer composites, gas sensors and light sources for flat panel displays.
The teams developing the machine were led by Professor Ravi Silva and Dr Guan Yow Chen of the University of Surrey (Guildford, England) and Ben Jensen, Technical Director for CEVP Ltd (Newhaven, England). Jensen has previously developed and built machines for leading companies and academic institutions such as IBM, Motorola, Seagate, General Motors and Cambridge University.
"I am incredibly excited by the partnership mix between IP Group, the University of Surrey and Surrey NanoSystems", said Jensen. "This will enable the company to break new ground in the manufacturing and use of carbon nanotubes and nanostructures within the CMOS process window. It will finally allow the material to be brought into the mainstream semiconductor manufacturing areas that from today should be limited only by the imaginations of the world's leading scientists."