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Seeing the invisible: Light-based 3D imaging of opaque nanostructures

Project description

Opening a window into the hidden world of 3D nanostructures

Complex nanostructures play an increasingly important role in society, as they form the basis of the integrated circuits found in modern electronic devices, such as smartphones. But as such structures become smaller and more complex, accurate characterisation of their structure and function becomes challenging. The EU-funded 3D-VIEW project plans to develop imaging techniques that use soft-X-ray radiation produced by ultrafast laser pulses. The result will be 3D images with a resolution well beyond what optical microscopes can achieve, even for structures that are completely opaque to visible light. Project work will also address the lack of compact tools that can look inside 3D nanostructures without damaging the delicate internal structure of metals and semiconductors.


Nanostructures drive the world around us. Every modern electronic device contains integrated circuits and nano-electronics to provide its functionality. Advances in nanotechnology directly impact society by enabling smartphones, autonomous devices, the internet of things, data storage, and essentially all forms of advanced technology. Fabricating such nanostructures crucially depends on having the tools to make them visible without destroying them. Modern nanodevices often have complex three-dimensional architectures with small features in all dimensions. While imaging methods that achieve nanometer-scale resolution exist, there are currently no compact tools that can look inside 3D nanostructures made out of metals and semiconductors without damaging their delicate internal structure. I will address this challenge by developing compact tools to image 3D nanostructures in a non-invasive way. Even though most nanostructures are completely opaque to visible light, I will develop light-based methods, combined with computational imaging techniques developed in my previous ERC project, to look inside them with unprecedented resolution and contrast. Light-based imaging is unparalleled in speed and versatility, and allows contact-free detection. My proposal is to: 1) Use compact laser-produced soft-X-ray sources to image nanostructures with high 3D resolution and element-sensitive contrast; 2) Use laser-induced ultrasound pulses to image complex 3D nanostructures, even through strongly absorbing materials; 3) Employ computational imaging methods to reconstruct high-resolution 3D object images from the resulting complex diffraction signals. I will forge a coordinated research program to bring these concepts to reality. This program provides exciting prospects for fundamental science and industrial metrology. I will go beyond the state-of-the-art in nano-imaging, to extend our vision into the complex interior of the smallest structures found in science and technology.


Net EU contribution
€ 2 000 000,00
Winthontlaan 2
3526 KV Utrecht

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West-Nederland Utrecht Utrecht
Activity type
Research Organisations
Other funding
€ 0,00

Beneficiaries (1)