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Posted: Mar 16, 2015

Parallel scanning probe microscope beats single scanning 1000 fold

(Nanowerk News) TNO, an independent research organization in The Netherlands, has developed a multiple miniaturized Scanning Probe Microscopy (MSPM) heads system, which can inspect and measure many sites in parallel. This system means an enhancement of throughput in order of more than 1000 times the single SPM throughput. It is capable of more than 10 wafers per hour throughput in Semicon and nanoelectronics industry and parallel and simultaneous measurement of biomedical samples to guarantee the same condition of scanning for all samples. Because of the speed and parallel scanning, the conditions during measurement are less likely to change due to variation in temperature, bio process. This has many advantages e.g. if used for statistical analysis.
miniaturized SPM head
Picture of one of the demonstration arm which carries one miniaturized SPM head. (Image: TNO) (click on image to enlarge)
(SPM) is emerging as an essential nanoinstrument in many applications where nanometer resolution imaging and characterization are required. The ability to accurately measure critical dimensions in nanometer scale, has made it an important instrument in several industrial applications such as semiconductor, solar, data storage, bio-medical, pharma and food science. Examples of applications are surface roughness, channel height and width measurement, defect inspection in wafers, masks and flat panel displays. In most of these applications, the target area is very large, and, therefore, the throughput of the measurement plays an important role in the final production cost.
Single SPM has never been able to compete with other inspection systems in throughput, thus has not fulfilled the industry needs in throughput and cost. Further increase of the speed of the single SPM helps, but it still is far from the required throughput and, therefore, insufficient for high-volume manufacturing.
Illustration of parallel SPM to image several locations on a wafer or mask
Illustration of parallel SPM to image several locations on a wafer or mask. Multiple positioning arms on two sides of the wafer stage, each capable of moving a miniaturised SPM scan head on to a large sample. Many parallel miniaturised SPM heads enable full area coverage at high throughput. (Image: TNO)
Over the past few years, within the Enabling Technology Program (ETP) Optomechatronics at TNO a revolutionary architecture for a multiple miniaturized SPM (MSPM) heads system has been developed, which can inspect and measure many sites in parallel. The very high speed of miniaturized SPM heads allow the user to scan many area, each with the size of tens of micrometers, in few seconds. Recent experimental results has convinced that the time for a parallel SPM has arrived.
This research line has led to over 10 internationally granted patents and several scientific publications in journals and on conferences. One of them was awarded as second best paper at the EMLC 2014 conference.
Source: TNO
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