2006 R&D 100 Winner
Growing thin films and etching minute features are fundamental to the fabrication of photovoltaic devices and LEDs. Most of the fabrication processes used involve overcoming some kind of energy-activation barrier to achieve the desired materials modification. Such barriers require that energy, usually heat, be input into the system to initiate the requisite physical or chemical processes.
By subjecting a confined volume of oxygen or nitrogen gas to a powerful laser, ENABLE: Energetic Neutral Atom Beam Lithography/Epitaxy, developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory, N.M., by Mark Hoffbauer, Alexander Mueller, and Elshan Akhadov, creates a plasma from which high kinetic-energy neutral atoms are then extracted and collimated. The resulting collimated beam is then used to directly activate surface chemical reactions, forming the basis of a specialized tool for both etching and growing thin film materials at the nanoscale.
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Originally published in R&D Magazine, September, 2006