SBIR Phase I: Low Temperature Ion Source for High-Brightness Focused Ion Beams

Period of Performance: 01/01/2013 - 12/31/2013


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

zeroK NanoTech Corporation
18026 Royal Bonnet Circle
Montgomery Village, MD 20886
Principal Investigator, Firm POC


This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project will investigate the commercial feasibility of low-temperature ion source (LoTIS) technology which uses laser-cooling to create a beam of Cs+ ions with high brightness and low energy spread. This technology could extend the utility of focused ion beam (FIB) instrumentation that is widely used for nanometer-scale precision machining tasks by addressing shortcomings in precision and speed afforded by commercially available ion source technology. The research aims of this project are the characterization of key ion source performance metrics - brightness and energy spread - of this technology, in order to compare it to incumbent ion source technologies in important application segments. Relative to the industry standard liquid metal ion source, this technology could provide an estimated tenfold to hundredfold increase in brightness and a fivefold reduction in energy spread. These improved ion source characteristics would enable superior machining precision at higher speeds over a broader range of ion beam operating energies. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is to develop improved FIB instrumentation to enable users in a variety of research fields and industrial applications, including nanotechnology, biotechnology, semiconductor manufacturing, and energy exploration. In particular, nanomachining applications, including integrated circuit edit and rapid prototyping of nanoscale device structures, are increasingly limited by the precision afforded by the current ion source technology, and the users in these areas are in need of higher-precision FIB solutions. FIBs employed for transmission electron microscope lamellae preparation require less precision but could benefit from reduced subsurface ion damage provided by LoTIS, through the use of Cs+ ions at low energy. A bright source of Cs+ ions could also dramatically improve the resolution and throughput for spatially-resolved elemental mapping in secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) applications. This technique represents an order-of-magnitude ion source performance improvement that will address FIB user needs across a wide spectrum of scientific and commercial applications.