PSI researchers use extreme UV light to produce tiny structures for information technology.

Researchers at PSI have refined a process known as photolithography, which can further advance miniaturisation in information technology.

In many areas of information technology, the trend towards ever more compact microchips continues unabated. This is mainly because production processes make it possible to achieve ever smaller structures, so that the same number of information-processing components takes up less and less space. Fitting more components into less space increases the performance and lowers the price of the microchips used in smartphones, smartwatches, game consoles, televisions, Internet servers and industrial applications.

A research group led by Dimitrios Kazazis and Yasin Ekinci at the Laboratory for X-ray Nanoscience and Technologies at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI, in collaboration with researchers from University College London (UCL) in the UK, has now succeeded in making important progress towards further miniaturisation in the IT industry. The scientists have demonstrated that photolithography – the method of patterning widely used in the mass production of microchips – works even when no photosensitive layer has been applied to the silicon.

Photolithography, which literally means “drawing on stone with light”, is the most important process in the industrial manufacture of electronic components. In principle, it works like exposing a photographic film to light, except that the carrier material is silicon rather than celluloid. A light-sensitive material, technically known as a photoresist, is applied to a silicon wafer. This is exposed to light in the pattern of the blueprint for the chip, which alters the chemical properties of the photoresist. This either becomes firmer or less firm. Subsequent treatment removes the exposed (positive process) or the unexposed (negative process) areas, leaving behind the desired circuit pattern, including the conductive traces. At present, this process is mainly carried out using lasers with a wavelength of around 240 to 193 nanometres.

However, the PSI researchers took a different approach. They opted against a photoresist, which degrades the image and is therefore an obstacle to miniaturisation.

Read more on the PSI website

Image: The PSI researchers involved at the XIL-II beamline of the SLS. From left to right: Yasin Ekinci, Gabriel Aeppli, Matthias Muntwiler, Procopios Christou Constantinou, Dimitrios Kazazis, Prajith Karadan

Credit: Paul Scherrer Institute/Mahir Dzambegovic

In-situ single-shot diffractive fluence mapping for x-ray FEL pulses

Free-electron lasers (FEL) for the extreme-ultraviolet (XUV) and x-ray regime opened up the possibility to investigate and exploit non-linear processes in the interaction of x-rays with matter. Such processes are of considerable interest in numerous research fields, owing to the huge impact of non-linear techniques on optics and spectroscopy in the visible and near-visible spectral range. Generating and understanding non-linear effects requires sophisticated control of the sample illumination. This is especially challenging at FEL sources, where variations of the spatial fluence distribution on a single-shot basis are common. Moreover, the focused spot often exhibits a complex internal structure due to diffraction artefacts from the focusing optics. These factors cause considerable uncertainties with respect to the effective fluence on a solid sample for scattering experiments in the forward direction.
We demonstrate a flexible solution for true in-situfluence monitoring on solid samples in transmission-type diffraction experiments. Our concept measures the detailed beam footprint on the actual sample under study. The image of the illumination is recorded simultaneously with the specimen’s primary scattering signal on a two-dimensional detector. This is facilitated by a shallow grating structure of only a few nanometer depth that is lithographically fabricated into the sample carrier membrane. Such membranes are routinely used in transmission-type diffraction experiments as a transmissive structural support for thin-film or sparsely dispersed samples. The grating structure forms a diffractive optical element that maps the spatial fluence distribution on the sample to a configurable position on the detector.

>Read more on the Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste website

Image: Figure 1.  a) Single-shot diffraction image of a sample with grating-based fluence monitor and ferromagnetic domains on a logarithmic false-color scale. The ring-shaped structure is due to the magnetic domains, while the fluence monitor grating gives rise to the brighter patterns on the image diagonals. Both grating patterns are equivalent images of the beam footprint on the sample. b) Enlarged detail of the diffracted fluence map on the sample on a linear false-color scale. c) AFM image of a single-shot damage crater in the sample’s silicon substrate. The pattern observed matches the in-situ measured beam footprint very well, but belongs to a different FEL shot. Scale bars are 10µm. Adapted from M. Schneider et al., Nature Communications 9, 214 (2018)

Atomic Flaws Create Surprising, High-Efficiency UV LED Materials

Subtle surface defects increase UV light emission in greener, more cost-effective LED and catalyst materials

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) traditionally demand atomic perfection to optimize efficiency. On the nanoscale, where structures span just billionths of a meter, defects should be avoided at all costs—until now.

A team of scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University has discovered that subtle imperfections can dramatically increase the efficiency and ultraviolet (UV) light output of certain LED materials.

“The results are surprising and completely counterintuitive,” said Brookhaven Lab scientist Mingzhao Liu, the senior author on the study. “These almost imperceptible flaws, which turned out to be missing oxygen in the surface of zinc oxide nanowires, actually enhance performance. This revelation may inspire new nanomaterial designs far beyond LEDs that would otherwise have been reflexively dismissed.”

>Read more on the NSLS-II website

Image: The research team, front to back and left to right: Danhua Yan, Mingzhao Liu, Klaus Attenkoffer, Jiajie Cen, Dario Stacciola, Wenrui Zhang, Jerzy Sadowski, Eli Stavitski.


Extreme-ultraviolet vortices from a free-electron laser

Extreme-ultraviolet vortices may be exploited to steer the magnetic properties of nanoparticles, increase the resolution in microscopy, and gain insight into local symmetry and chirality of a material; they might even be used to increase the bandwidth in long-distance space communications. However, in contrast to the generation of vortex beams in the infrared and visible spectral regions, production of intense, extreme-ultraviolet (XUV) and x-ray optical vortices still remains a challenge. Here, we present an in-situ and an ex-situ technique for generating intense, femtosecond, coherent optical vortices with tunable topological charge at a free-electron laser (FEL) in the XUV.

The first method takes advantage of nonlinear harmonic generation in a helical undulator and exploits the fact that such harmonics carry a topological charge of l = n-1, where n is the harmonic number. The experiment was performed at the FERMI FEL. An ultraviolet (250-nm) seed laser was used to energy modulate the electron beam (e-beam) in the first undulator (modulator), as shown in the top panel of Figure 1. The e-beam was then sent through a dispersive section (a four-dipole-magnet chicane), where the energy modulation was transformed into a current-density modulation (bunching) with Fourier components spanning many harmonics of the seed laser frequency. Such a bunched e-beam entered the helical radiator tuned to a fundamental wavelength of 31.2 nm (i.e., the 8th harmonic of the seed), producing coherent light in the XUV. The FEL was operated in the high-gain regime, close to the saturation point. Under these conditions, the interaction between the radiation at the fundamental FEL wavelength and the e-beam induced bunching at the second harmonic (15.6 nm), resulting in emission of coherent XUV vortices carrying unit topological charge (l = 1) at intensities on the order of 10−3 of the fundamental FEL emission; see bottom panel in Figure 1.

>Read more on the FERMI website

Top: The scheme to generate optical vortices at harmonics (in the present case at the 2nd harmonic) of the fundamental FEL wavelength. The optical vortex is separated from the fundamental FEL emission using a Zr filter.
Bottom: Intensity profile of the generated optical vortex with a topological charge of l =1 (left), and interference with a Gaussian beam revealing the twisted nature of the vortex (right).