The project is part of the Atomically Precise Manufacturing Consortium led by Zyvex Labs LLC, a molecular nanotechnology company based in Richardson, Texas. The project includes a mixture of funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Texas Emerging Technology Fund and cost sharing from the team members.
“Increasing the precision of manufacturing has driven both technology and science for the past couple of centuries and what we are doing is just an extension of that drive,” said John Randall, vice president of Zyvex Labs, the prime contractor for the research project. “What is revolutionary is having digital control over where we add atoms to a robust solid material. The unique expertise of Professors, Wallace, Chabal and Cho will be key to our success in this program.”
In addition to UT Dallas and Zyvex, the research team includes the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of North Texas, the University of Central Florida, the University of Texas at Austin, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, General Dynamics, Molecular Imprints Inc. and Integrated Circuit Scanning Probe Instruments.
Funded for $1.8 million over the next four-and-a-half years, the UT Dallas team also includes Yves Chabal, head of the Jonsson School’s new Materials Science and Engineering Department and holder of the Texas Instruments Distinguished University Chair in Nanoelectronics, and K.J. Cho, an associate professor of materials science and engineering and physics.
The Atomically Precised Manufacturing Project currently consists of three coordinated efforts: Micro Automation, Molecularly Precise Tools, and Patterned Atomic Layer Epitaxy.
Atomic layer deposition builds amorphous materials; atomic layer epitaxy (ALE) builds crystalline materials. Start with a protected (passivated) surface: every available bond has a hydrogen atom. If you deprotect the surface, removing the hydrogen, then you can deposit a layer of atoms. If you choose the right precursor gas, you add only one monolayer which is protected as it’s added. Then you can deprotect and add exactly one more layer of atoms. There are a number of precursor gases available. There are literally hundreds of systems to grow things with atomic precision in one dimension.
Now, if you combine this with the ability to deprotect the surface in selected locations… With a scanning tunneling microscope, you can remove single hydrogen atoms with atomic precision. If you do this layer by layer, you can build 3D structures. Prof. Joe Lyding at University of Illinois has done repeated desorption/deposition.
Known as atomically precise manufacturing, the technique is expected to enable a wide variety of devices and products, including:
-Ultra-low-power semiconductors for cellphones and other wireless communications.
Sensors with ultra-high sensitivity.
-Data encryption orders of magnitude more secure than existing technology.
-Optical elements that enable unprecedented performance in computing and communications.
-Customized surfaces that would have an array of applications in the biomedical and pharmaceutical industries.
-Nanoscale genomics arrays that would enable a person’s complete genetic sequence to be read in less than two hours.
Zyvex’s research activities