Skip to main content

Microwave Nanotechnology for Semiconductor and Life Sciences

Final Report Summary - NANOMICROWAVE (Microwave Nanotechnology for Semiconductor and Life Sciences)

NANOMICROWAVE (Project No. 317116) was a Marie Curie Initial Training Network (ITN) with the overarching aim to train a new generation of multidisciplinary researchers in the field of nanoscale microwave technologies and related emerging applications. A total of 16 Fellows (11 early-stage researches, ESRs, & 5 experienced researchers, ERs) were funded through the network. Nanoscale microwave technologies were investigated through a combination of individual research projects focused on theoretical and instrumentation development and development of applications in the semiconducting & life sciences industries. The consortium of Full Partners consisted of two industrial partners: Agilent (Linz, Austria) and Bio Nano Consulting (London, UK; an SME); and seven academic / research institutions: IBEC (Barcelona, Spain), CNRS (Lille, France), University of Genoa (Genoa, Italy), CNR (Roma, Italy), University College London (London, UK), Johannes Kepler University Linz (Linz, Austria) & Queen Mary University of London (London, UK). The consortium also included one Associate Partner: STMicroelectronics (Lille, France).
Microwave technologies have had a tremendous impact on society as they constitute the basis of communication, remote sensing and navigation systems. In addition, they are widely used as power sources in food and materials industries, in plasma processing techniques in the semiconductor industry and as surgical tools in medicine. In all these applications engineers make use of the special propagation properties of microwaves, their short wavelengths, wide bandwidths and the existence of molecular, atomic or nuclear resonances at those frequencies. A common aspect of all existing applications is that they exploit the properties of microwaves interacting with objects of a size comparable or greater than their wave lengths, i.e. centimetres (cm) to millimetres (mm). With the advent of Nanotechnologies the possibility to explore the interactions of microwaves with much smaller objects (micrometres to nanometres) is emerging as an exciting field of research and technology development. The near-field properties of microwaves (relevant at distances several times smaller than their wavelengths), together with the relevance of quantum and semi-classical interactions, opens up phenomena that are expected to give rise to new applications in fields of application such as electronics, biology, spintronics or medicine.
Key objectives
The major objective of the NANOMICROWAVE Network was to train a new generation of multidisciplinary researchers in the developing field of nanoscale microwave technologies and related emerging applications. Through this Network these researchers acquired a solid multidisciplinary scientific and technical training in the field of nanoscale microwave technologies enabling them to generate new knowledge beyond the current state of the art, developing the skills to transfer this knowledge into novel microwave applications in the semiconductor and life science sectors, specifically, in nano-electronics, nano-biology and nano-medicine.
As part of this EU project three research modules comprising the scientific portion of the project were completed as shown below:
• Module A (Theoretical and instrumentation tools for nanoscale microwave technologies), involving development of bespoke theoretical solutions to model the interaction of microwaves at the nanoscale and actual tools for imaging samples using microwave-driven instrumentation,
• Module B (Applications of nanoscale microwave technologies for the semiconductor industry), involving developing applications of the tools for imaging at nanoscale resolution samples of interest to the semiconductor industry including, for example, doping profiles and low capacitance varactors,
• Module C (Applications of nanoscale microwave technology to the life sciences), involving developing applications of the tools for high resolution imaging of samples from the life sciences, including bacteria, for example.
Twenty papers have been published to date in peer-reviewed scientific journals by Principal Investigators and/or Fellows of the NANOMICROWAVE Network on scientific findings associated with the Networks’ research focus. Key findings include 1.) assessment of the change in bacterial cell physical & electrical properties following application of antibiotics (manuscript in preparation), and 2.) use of scanning microwave microscopy (SMM) to image subsurface defects for semiconductor applications (IEEE, Jan 2017). Other articles investigated theoretical & numerical simulations of the physics involving microwave interactions at the nanoscale, comparing with experimental results. Several projects investigated specific applications of SMM in the semiconducting & life sciences fields.
A total of 40 deliverables were delivered by the Network including 32 scientific/technical deliverables and 8 management. The Network’s website ( was developed in year one and has been managed by the Coordinator (BNC) since then. It will continue to be operational for three years after the end of the project.
Socio-economic impacts
One of the major goals of the Network was the development of experienced researchers with the skills to expand the use of microwave technologies within the EU’s research and commercial sectors. As such, the network placed a strong emphasis on increasing publications and development of academic qualifications. In addition, the Network encouraged mutual recognition of the training activities developed, facilitating greater transference of staff and knowledge, not only among the partners, but among the wider microwave research community and the semiconductor and life science industries.
Researchers recruited within the Network, both early-stage and experienced, benefitted from the training programme of the Network in the following main aspects:
• State of the art individual scientific training in an emerging field – Network Fellows benefitted from the opportunity to receive training from world-leading research leaders and institutions, providing a unique opportunity to fulfil their scientific training needs in this field of research and producing the next generation of leaders who will be based in Europe. Secondments to partner laboratories ensured sharing of best practice and dissemination of skills across the EU.
• Multidisciplinary scientific training – researchers from the Network benefitted from the clear multidisciplinary orientation of the Network (including physicists, chemists, engineers, biologists) as well as experience with the various industrial sectors of interest (life sciences, medicine, semiconductors, lab instrumentation, etc.)
• Mobility – due to the ambitious secondment plan of the Network, with a main role for industry partners, and the organization of Network events such as Network Meetings, the Fellows benefitted from intense transnational mobility.
• Complementary skills training – this added value by improving Fellows’ non-scientific skills such as communication, writing, etc.
Commercial impact
The work of this Network also contributed to the commercial development of the volumetric scanning microwave microscope (VSMM) and the associated components necessary for this technology, developments which will benefit a number of European SMEs & large companies, which will result in increased corporate revenues and growth in highly-skilled jobs, ensuring that Europe remains a leader in this increasingly-important technology area.
The NANOMICROWAVE Network has successfully completed its key objectives, providing valuable experience and opportunity to 16 Fellows and delivering a number of important outputs, including increased scientific knowledge, which has been disseminated through scientific journal publications.