With a valorisation grant from the FOM Foundation, researcher Jacob Hoogenboom will characterise a system that allows an ordinary SEM microscope to perform extremely fast measurements. Delft University of Technology and FOM have jointly filed a patent for this system. In September Gerward Weppelman, who previously worked on the system as a FOM PhD researcher, will start as a postdoc within the project. The project is a public-private partnership between FOM and FEI.
Hoogenboom's research group is studying the behaviour and optical properties of nanoantennae. A good instrument for this is cathodoluminescence microscopy in which nanostructures are struck by an electron beam and the light subsequently emitted is detected. "However this technique is unsuitable for studying the behaviour of nanoantennae over time, as the processes occur too rapidly for standard electronics to follow," says Gerward Weppelman.
Pulsing electron beam
The solution for using a slow detector to observe rapid processes is a pulsing beam. Weppelman: "This so-called pump-probe technique is frequently used in laser physics and is in some ways similar to a stroboscope." Over the past few years Weppelman worked on a microchip that allows the electron beam to pulse stably. This microchip is switched by a laser pulse and subsequently the electron beam moves rapidly over a tiny hole. One important requirement posed by the research group was that the chip must be simple to use in an existing scanning electron microscope (SEM), such as that of collaborative partner FEI, without making the work of other users impossible. "That was a practical point for us but also important for making the technique widely applicable," says Weppelman.
The researchers have achieved highly promising results with a chip Weppelman produced during his PhD research. The results are so promising that FOM and Delft University of Technology have filed a patent for this. With the valorisation grant, Weppelman can now work as a postdoc on characterising the system further. "We want to look even closer still at what happens to the electron beam when it travels through the system. We also want to characterise the system's time response at even smaller timescales," he says. "Furthermore, we want to investigate how to upscale the chip's fabrication so that it can be produced commercially in the future."
New collaborative projects
FOM wants to increase the involvement of small and medium-size companies (SMEs) in fundamental research. In the future, projects like the one described above will be made possible within the instruments KIEM-HTSM and LIFT-HTSM. Partners from innovative collaborative research projects, in which industry wants to invest, can submit project proposals for these funding instruments to FOM. Further information can be found on the FOM website.
Jacob Hoogenboom, (015) 278 59 20.