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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/N018389/1
Title: Investigating pressure induced conductive states on the nanoscale : A novel route to nano-circuitry
Principal Investigator: Kumar, Dr A
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
University of Arkansas
Department: Sch of Mathematics and Physics
Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Scheme: First Grant - Revised 2009
Starts: 06 April 2016 Ends: 05 September 2017 Value (£): 98,734
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Materials Synthesis & Growth
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Manufacturing Electronics
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
03 Dec 2015 EPSRC Physical Sciences Materials and Physics - December 2015 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The ability to transfer nanometer scale metallic patterns at low cost, high throughput and high resolution has huge implications for slashing the manufacturing costs of semiconductors and data storage devices. Techniques like nanoimprint lithography allow fabrication of such nanometer scale patterns by mechanical deformation of imprint resist and subsequent processes. Even though the technique is considered one of the simplest lithography approaches, it still comprises of several complicated steps during pattern transfer. If the transfer step could be eliminated and only the imprint step could directly result in the printing of a few nanometer sharp circuit pattern on the chosen material, that would represent a dramatic leap in terms of throughput and reproducibility of patterns for nano-circuitry. In order to achieve this visionary goal of directly imprinting circuitry, it is necessary as a first step to understand the physical phenomena in materials that would allow localised pressure to be used as a tool to sketch and control sharp conductive channels in an otherwise insulating material. There are atleast two different mechanisms that could give rise to local pressure induced conductive states in an insulating material. Ferroelectrics with conducting domain walls and materials undergoing metal-insulator phase transitions are the two primary material systems where nanoscale pressure can be used to realise confined conducting states in the material and potentially achieve deterministic control of such interfaces. Both systems allow co-existence of conducting walls or phases in the bulk but the mechanisms through which localised stress results in the formation of conductive interfaces or channels in these materials remains to be well understood before the effect itself can be fully exploited. For potential applications, it is also necessary to evaluate the ease of channel formation under pressure, their stability and reconfigurability. To address these issues, the primary goal of this proposal is to establish the pressure mediated control of localised nanoscale conductive states and develop a fundamental understanding of the physics associated with this behaviour so that reliable control of conductive interfaces can be achieved as a first step towards nano-circuitry. Pressure applied via an atomic force microscope (AFM) tip will be used to inject conductive states in three different materials : an improper ferroelectric, a mixed phase ferroelectric and a material undergoing metal-insulator phase transition, each representing a unique type of conductive interface created through pressure induced writing. In each of the three cases, the achievable degree of control of tip pressure induced conductive walls/phases will be evaluated and experiments will be performed to identify the physical origin and the mechanisms underlying the conductivity of the created interfaces. With a grasp on the mechanism of pressure induced conductivity in these materials, we aim to be able to precisely control the formation and annihilation of these confined walls or phases. The complementarity of pressure mediated control of conductive behaviour with other stimuli will be evaluated for optimal reconfigurability of conductive channels and read/erase capability. Proof-of-concept demonstration of pressure induced conductive channels between lateral electrodes will be performed. The AFM based approach developed here would thus help establish the underpinning physics of pressure induced conductive states in the discussed material systems and provide key insight for developing other nanoimprint methods for direct writing of nano-circuitry.

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Organisation Website: http://www.qub.ac.uk