New ARRA-funded Equipment Arriving at CFN

The Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN) at Brookhaven National Laboratory is receiving more than $5 million in new equipment and upgrades funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The new acquisitions will fill gaps in the current facility to meet the needs of internal and user research.

“The ARRA funding provides crucial new capabilities in support of the CFN’s research and user mission,” said CFN scientist Eric Stach, leader of the electron microscopy group.

Stach will be working with a new electron microscope, one of seven ARRA-funded CFN additions. Unlike other microscopes at the Lab, this one will be capable of studying bio- and soft materials such as polymers, which are valuable in electronic and photovoltaic — solar cell — research.

Erich Stach

Erich Stach, leader of the Electron Microscopy Group in the Center for Functional Nanomaterials, working with the new electron microscope for scanning soft and biomaterials.

Stach said he’s glad that the need for routine instrumentation, like the new electron microscope, is being addressed.

“It’s often easier to ask for funding for something unusual or fancy, but the routine items are very important,” Stach said. “This is an easy-to-use instrument and one that we need to maximize our equipment.”

The rest of the ARRA-funded additions include three new instruments and three upgrades intended to fill gaps in the current facility.

“We’re very conscious of what our users want,” said Aaron Stein, a member of the CFN’s nanofabrication team. “We want to give our users a greater chance of success in their research so that they can produce high-quality work.”

Fernando Camino

Fernando Camino of the CFN's Electronic Materials group working with the new scanning electron microscope.

For example, ARRA funding will be used to acquire a second scanning electron microscope. Nearly everyone at the facility uses the current scanning electron microscope, Stein said; the second will double CFN’s capacity, increasing access to an essential tool.

Another project that will increase user access is an upgrade for the e-beam lithography tool. Designed to create patterns at the nanoscale with electron beams, the tool is a centerpiece of the CFN’s facilities. The upgrade will increase its speed by a factor of four, an efficiency boost and boon to users. Stein estimates that the tool is used to 70-80 percent of capacity, so the upgrade will allow more people to use it.

Other upgrades will be made to the mask aligner for optical lithography, and the electron energy loss spectrometer, which is used to study the composition of samples. New pieces of equipment include a scanning tunneling microscope and reactive ion etcher. The new acquisitions and upgrades are expected to be in place by spring 2011.

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