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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/M013103/1
Title: Compact Ion-Sources based on Surface-Patterned Atom Chips
Principal Investigator: Weatherill, Professor KJ
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Physics
Organisation: Durham, University of
Scheme: First Grant - Revised 2009
Starts: 01 January 2015 Ends: 30 June 2016 Value (£): 100,136
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Cold Atomic Species
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
25 Sep 2014 EPSRC Physical Sciences Physics - September 2014 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
In this project I will use recently developed techniques in laser-cooling of atoms to improve focused ion beams (FIBs).

FIBs are used across a vast range of applications; from circuit editing and defect review in the semiconductor industry, to failure analysis, sample preparation, surface analysis and much more. FIBs can be used for imaging, milling (removing material) and deposition (adding material).

The majority of FIBs currently use a gallium liquid metal ion source (LMIS) and spot sizes of < 10 nm are routinely achieved at low currents of around 10 pA.

Although FIBs using LMIS have been spectacularly successful, there are some serious limitations. For example, the spot size is fundamentally limited by the energy spread of the ions at the source and the source species is limited to gallium because of its unique combination of properties. Gallium is destructive when used for imaging but not heavy or reactive enough for many applications. Gallium implantation can also contaminate samples, causing unwanted effects.

Recently, researchers have begun to investigate using laser-cooled atoms as a source for FIB applications. By laser cooling atoms down to microKelvin temperatures and then photoionising them, we can achieve inherently low energy spreads in the neV range. Because the ultracold temperatures of laser cooled atoms result in small transverse ion velocities, we get low beam divergence and can focus the beam more tightly.

The Range of Species that could be laser-cooled is large and includes the alkali metals, alkaline earths, metastable Nobel gases and also a range of transition and rare earth metals; Al, Cr, Ag, Cd, Hg, Dy, Ho, Er, Tm, Yb, potentially opening up brand new possibilities in nanotechnology.

Although ion sources based upon laser-cooling have proven to be useful and are a candidate for real technological implementation of cold atoms physics, the sheer scale and complexity of the experiments makes embedding them into FIB systems impractical. The vacuum systems tend to be large and heavy and several laser frequencies are required for cooling and photoionisation.

I intend to use newly-developed surface-patterned (grating) atom chip technology to form the MOT for a cold ion source, thereby considerably reducing the size and complexity of the apparatus. This grating MOT ion source (GMIS) could then realistically be implemented as the ion source for a FIB system, providing an alternative to the ubiquitous LMIS.

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