Nanoscale length measurement: Meeting measurement needs for semiconductors and nanotechnology
Nanotechnology covers materials with dimensions less than 100 nm, and includes the manipulation of individual atoms and molecules. The nanotechnology industry, manufacturers and accredited calibration laboratories require reliable and suitable measurement length standards for the exploitation of this technology. The fundamental quantities that are used to characterise a nano-material are step height and lateral pitch. They are measured using ultra-high resolution microscopes, but before the project the standards were not small or accurate enough i.e. on the same scale as the nano-objects being measured. This project developed new length standards which enable the calibration of ultra-high resolution microscopes, used to characterise nanomaterials, to less than 0.3 nm, or up to 20 times smaller length scales and 10 times better accuracy than previously possible. The length standards were tailored to the needs of the semiconductor industry, and will also enable the traceable measurement of nanoparticles and carbon nanotubes, which are of great interest to the environmental and health sectors. In addition, these new reference length standards will be cheaper to purchase, due to the development of new low-cost production technologies by the project.