‘I, a universe of atoms, an atom in the universe’ Richard P. Feynman
Everything we do involves the manipulation of atoms so what’s the big deal about Atomic Scale Processing? It is the creation or removal of material one atomic layer at a time that’s what, which I still find amazing. Consider a human hair, which seems to be a Standard Unit when it comes to comparing how small things are, is about 0.1mm diameter. We can just about handle a single hair if it is long enough without the aid of magnification or implements. Take that down to an atom which is about a million times smaller than a human hair in diameter, diameter and atoms are a tricky concept but bear with me here, how do you create a single layer of atoms? How do we even know that we’ve created it, do you take my word for it?
Well now you can create single layers of atoms of a variety of materials and even remove them one layer at a time using techniques such as Atomic Layer Deposition (ALDep), Atomic Layer Etch (ALEt) and 2D growth by high temperature Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD). Seeing is believing and measurement is achieved by Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) and Raman Spectroscopy.
The technology exists to make these layers and Plasma Technology has these tools and is uniquely able to cluster them all on a single tool.
Now while it is a fascinating achievement in it’s own right it gets even more exciting when you start to use these new layers to make devices. The layers have some amazing electrical properties which are being used to make some very interesting transistors for example. This is just the start, having these materials available in quantities and areas as never before is opening up new devices. It’s an inspiring time when imagination and science are racing to keep up with each other.
To paraphrase Mr Feynman, what a great time to be an atom in the universe!