A tool enables the growth of carbon nanotubes at low temperatures.
A partnership between CEVP Ltd. (Newhaven, East Sussex, UK; www.cevp.co.uk) and the University of Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (Guildford, Surrey, UK; www.ati.surrey.ac.uk) afforded the development of the NanoGrowth tool. The product will enable scientists and engineers to grow carbon nanotubes with repeatable results at temperatures below 100°C.
Growing carbon nanotubes at low temperatures is possible due to the tool’s use of a thermal control system that maintains the growth substrate at room temperature, according to the company. The machine can also function at conventional high temperatures, if desired.
“Most products and applications involving carbon nanotubes are still in the research phase,” says Ben Jensen, technical director at CEVP. “So, we are confident that by giving this capability to developers, this will allow integration of carbon nanotubes into products far faster than previously was possible.” Medical imaging, implantable sensor technology, microdrug delivery, and lab-on-a-chip components are among the medical applications that may benefit from carbon nanotubes.
The product may even facilitate growth of other nanomaterials, including silicon and tungsten oxide nanowires on suitable substrates, according to CEVP.
Current material growth is limited to 3-in. wafers and substrates. However, the company predicts that its process will be capable of running on 6-in. wafers by March 2007, says Jensen. And by August 2008, the firm’s goal is to have achieved stable and repeatable growth on 12-in. substrates, he adds.
The firm forecasts that the NanoGrowth tool will spur the commercialization of carbon nanotubes. Several groups have configured tools for nanotube growth in labs, unavailable for commercial use. Others have converted PECVD and diamond deposition tools to perform nanotube growth for profit; but these tools have limited capabilities at low temperatures, according to Jensen. “We believe that this is the first commercially available tool that is capable of high-precision aligned carbon nanotube growth on temperature-sensitive substrates,” he says.
And the tool’s design reflects market sensibility. The unit has a tool package and recipes for nanotube growth. Users can follow the recipes, modify them, or ignore them and set their own parameters. The tool is also equipped with NanoSoft, the company’s touch-screen supervisory control and data acquisition interface and control software.
The NanoGrowth tool signifies nascent steps in integrating nanotechnology into actual products.
“We hope it will [give] scientists and engineers a way of taking carbon nanotubes out of the lab and finally putting them where they should be: in next-generation technology,” says Jensen. “I know that this is a bold statement, but so far this material has offered so much potential across a wide range of industries. But because of manufacturing and processing issues, the results still have a long way to go before the material’s full capabilities are realized,” he adds.
Currently undergoing trials, the NanoGrowth is slated for release in March 2006.