Microfabrication is a set of technologies for creating small size structures of the order of micrometers or less. It involves a large number of processes that use substantially expensive equipment. For this reason, its adoption is currently being restricted to large-scale development of many microelectro-mechanical systems, such as sensors and actuators, or integrated optics applications. Addressing this need, an EC funded project developed an innovative technology for direct surface microstructuring using a chemically active plasma jet (less than 80nm in diameter) with simultaneous in-situ imaging. The developed nanonozzle scans the whole surface and emits the jet, forming the structure and thus, the microfabrication processes are significantly reduced in time and size. The technology is suitable for small-size production or development of prototypes and pilot applications. The use of the local plasma-solid reaction allows the direct fabrication of small size structures of materials with required electronic properties in the sub-micron scale for microelectronic devices. Compared to the FIB (Focused Ion Beam) conventional technology for lithography, the downstream plasma concept eases and expedites the etching and deposition processes. Thereby, the purely chemical induced processes turn ion optics unnecessary and both process and equipment costs are reduced. An additional feature of this innovation is that it offers microfabrication and imaging capabilities at the same time. Through the detection of the shear force between the nanonozzle and the surface, the high imaging resolution (50nm or better) provides a better process control. Hence, the technology can perform in-situ imaging on the spot analysis of the cross-sections of microdevices. The nanojet technology is a versatile tool for continuous miniaturisation to micro- and nanometer size. The tool can find manifold applications in IC (integrated circuit) -producing industry as well as in physics, chemistry and biology. More importantly, it has the potential to play a key role in the nanotechnology era set to have a tremendous impact on our lives.
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