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The EURAMET EMRP theme has enabled the European metrology community to work collectively towards an improved measurement infrastructure for new technologies with the potential to underpin future economic growth. These projects have brought together metrology expertise in physics, chemistry, and biology to develop new analytical methods and statistical approaches that support greater uptake of novel materials or statistical approaches for new applications. The European Commission and national governments invested€30 million in collaborative research projects, involving research groups in 17 European NMIs and Designated Institutes (DIs), 23 academic groups, and 9 businesses.
Reducing power consumption and increasing processing speed in next generation microelectronics, as silicon reaches its limit, relies on the performance of new materials. EMRP project Traceable characterisation of nanostructured devices has developed robust techniques for nanoscale chemical analyses and for nano-object mechanical testing - both essential for characterising microelectronic components and new materials.
For example, the accuracy of an advanced analysis tool - argon cluster sputtering - has been improved, making it suitable for determining individual chemical layer compositions in innovative multi-layer organic materials. A universal equation now permits the energy of argon cluster beams to be controlled and tailored to the material under test, increasing analysis accuracy. This analysis is essential for confirming specific layers have been reliably produced during semi-conductor fabrication.
In addition, the use of nanowires as electrical conductors in the next generation of electronics requires confidence in their strength, for which, new mechanical testing techniques are needed. EMRP project Traceable measurement of mechanical properties of nano-objects has successfully combined scanning electron microscopy with nanoscale sample preparation and strength testing for the first time. This new technique enables accurate selection and testing of specific material properties, an important first step towards innovation in electronics for future devices.
Nanoparticles have great potential as future drug delivery methods due to the ease with which they can travel around inside our bodies. Understanding how they stick together in blood or travel across cell membranes once inside the body is key to determining their safety. EMRP project Chemical and optical characterisation of nanomaterials in biological systems validated existing laboratory techniques using well characterised nanoparticles in biological media, as a first step towards a reliable measurement infrastructure for research into nanoparticle toxicity. Research highlighted the benefits of a two-stage approach based on initial size segregation before analysis for accurately detecting the 'rare' particles in samples. This is important for risk assessments and toxicity studies.
International documentary standards form the basis for quality procedures that ensure measurements are reliable and reproducible, no matter where or when they are made. As a result of EMRP project Traceable measurement of mechanical properties of nano-objects, atomic force microscopy (AFM) is now a recognised mechanical testing method under the governing ISO standard. For the first time, it is possible to reliably measure the mechanical properties of thin surface coatings and nanoscale features using a standardised approach similar to that used for bulk material samples. This enables the reliable comparison of data from different measurement scales. The revised ISO standard puts AFM strength testing on the same footing as testing for bulk material properties. Designers can now have greater confidence in nanoscale wire and pillar performance, essential information for including these features into new electronics.
Organisations need to be confident that complex computer programs are bug-free, and that those used for risk assessments based on new measurement uncertainty innovations are reliable. EMRP research has generated solutions for these programs using novel statistical approaches.
Applying the principles of instrument calibration to complex software, EMRP project Traceability for computationally-intensive metrology is enabling computer programmers to be confident that new software routines are bug-free. The project developed an online system that provides standardised algorithms and ideal data sets to independently verify software performance. This has already provided users with software performance validation, and early adopters in a diverse range of applications including integrity safety testing and precision engineering.
In another project Novel mathematical and statistical approaches to uncertainty evaluation, new worked examples of how probability and existing data can be used to increase the certainty of measurements by reducing accuracy 'doubts' in a broad range of risk assessment applications have been generated. By introducing shortcuts in data processing and developing new statistical models, research has reduced reliance on multiple computer processors and calculation times without sacrificing accuracy. The project's statistical approaches have been successfully applied to diverse situations such as determining optimised re-test frequencies for new batches of energy smart meters and enabling the use of complex light scattering measurements in semiconductor quality control.
Terahertz radiation is an ideal technology for quick and non-invasive security imaging, but confirming both operators and the travelling public are safe relies on accurately determining the effects it induces in the skin. EMRP project Microwave and terahertz metrology for homeland security has developed and validated a new modelling approach for estimating terahertz radiation interactions with skin. It demonstrated that terahertz security scanning complies with the European "Physical Agents Directive" exposure limits for both instrument operators and the travelling public. This supports greater adoption of terahertz surveillance for public safety.