Patterning the Future
Microsystems that are 100 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair are becoming increasingly important for research and industry. Their applications include accelerometers for ignition control of vehicle airbag systems, distance sensors for manipulators in industry automation, and Fourier Transform (FT) spectrometers for hydrocarbon identification.
Microsystems can be manufactured using X-ray lithography, a highly sophisticated fabrication technology that produces polymer microstructures with excellent vertical sidewalls. By using the powerful light from a synchrotron, X-rays copy the layout of a microstructured mask into polymer, modifying it locally and generating the structures. The structures can then be used as a final product or as a template in a subsequent electroforming step, using LIGA technology, to create metal structures. LIGA (an acronym from German words for lithography, electroplating, and molding) is a micromachining technology. Not only is it cost effective, but LIGA also enables the use of materials with desirable properties such as increased toughness, high temperature inertness, magnetism, piezoelectricity, and photochromism.
Canada Research Chair Dr. Sven Achenbach has extensive experience in X-ray lithography technology from his work at the National Research Centre of Karlsruhe in Germany, the cradle of LIGA technology. In Canada, he is establishing X-ray lithography technology with the use of the new Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan. Part of his energy is focused on the planning and erecting a microfabrication laboratory known as the Canadian Synchrotron Nanostructures Facility (CSNF) at the CLS. The CSNF is comprised of two beamlines and a clean room for supporting resist processing.
Establishing microstructuring processes is a key challenge at the CSNF. Dr. Achenbach works on mask-making procedures to implement the necessary primary structuring step for high-resolution devices, and adjust irradiation conditions and resist technology to optimize the structure quality and accuracy. He hopes to push the limits of this technology for various emerging applications, including sub-micron wireless and photonic devices.