MONTBONNOT, FRANCE: To further enable its research in direct-write printing of micro- and nanoscale electronic devices, the Italian Institute of Technology’s (IIT) Center for Nanoscience and Technology has purchased a JetLab 4xl-A maskless nanoprinting system from equipment supplier Altatech Semiconductor SA. The system will be installed at IIT’s facility in Milan by the end of November.
IIT and other European research centers are racing to develop a reliable, cost-effective process for printing nanoscale arrays of metallic, conductive ink droplets to produce smaller, faster-switching semiconductor transistors for next-generation flexible electronics.
Dr. Mario Caironi, team leader at IIT’s Center for Nanoscience and Technology, was the lead author of a research paper on this subject published earlier this year by the American Chemical Society. Altatech Semiconductor’s inkjet-based patterning technology provides the high resolution, high patterning yield and ability to print on non-planar, non-rigid substrates that will be needed for volume manufacturing of flexible electronics.
“JetLab’s single-droplet precision, combined with complex print job definition management through convivial software, enables us to do scalable patterning of nanotechnology devices,” said Dr. Caironi. “It’s a vital tool in our research activity.”
The JetLab 4xl-A nanoprinting system is capable of operating at low processing temperatures of less than 70° C. This makes it compatible with flexible plastic substrates and the sensitive molecular stability of many advanced nanomaterials including carbon nanotubes, graphene, inorganic nanowires and organic semiconductors.
Prior to placing this order, IIT conducted extensive tests of the system’s unique piezoelectric-enabled microdispensing technology, developed by Altatech Semiconductor’s US-based strategic partner MicroFab Technologies Inc.
The proprietary nozzle design enables picoliter droplets of conductive ink to be deposited with a positioning accuracy of 25 microns. In addition, the JetLab platform can achieve placement repeatability within 5 microns across a printable area of 210mm by 260mm.
Using this highly precise deposition technology and a technique recently developed by Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, UK, JetLab can define electrode gaps of 100 nm to 500 nm while tightly controlling the volume of material deposited per droplet and the spread of material on the substrate.
“As an additive printing technology, inkjet-based patterning offers the advantages of process simplification, layer-to-layer alignment, compatibility with large-area processing and potential cost reductions compared to subtractive approaches such as electron-beam lithography or nanoimprinting,” said Jean-Luc Delcarri, president of Altatech Semiconductor.