Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sputtering gold!

It's Paul Randall's (my work experience student's) - last day, so I'm giving him one last use of my blog to tell you about Spintronics - some more cutting edge research done by the University of Southampton's School of Physics and Astronomy.

Paul worked with PhD student Roger Buckingham in the nanofabrication cleanroom to find out how scientists use electrons and atomic sized particles to create new ways to store information, measure surfaces at the nanometre level and improve upon current methods of conveying electrictiy in circuit boards. Here's Paul's explaination of what he learnt: -

"The day before yesterday we used an evaporator to create my name 100 microns in size - now I'm going to show you how the evaporator process works and will compare it to that of a sputterer.

When using the evaporator (shown on the left) -only metals with low melting points can be used, whereas with the sputterer almost any element or compound can be used in conjunction with any other.
The evaporating process does not coat the sides of the grove created by the scanning electron microscope - as shown in the diagram to the left.

The flexibility of the sputterer (shown in the photo) is a great advantage, however it cannot send out particles perpendicular to the object, so it ends up coating the top, sides and groves.
When using a sputterer it is important to design a different structure of materials so that the acetone can still reach the plastic layers beneath the sputtered elements. The diagram to the left shows how by using two plastics of two different molecular weights (the layer beneath being lighter) we can create an 'undercut' that prevents complete coverage by the elements.

The above processes are used in many different areas of research. "
Paul's tired himself out with all this sputtering and blogging and head is full - he'll be glad to go back to Thornden School on monday..."


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