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Space-time visualization of microelectronic chip operation with femtosecond electron microscopy

Project description

Pioneering combination captures electron transport in nanostructures

Our ability to see the world we live in at ever higher resolution both in space and time opens new horizons to innovation and discovery. Information processing is an excellent case in point. Enhancing our knowledge of charge carrier mobility could help us design materials and methods to significantly increase signal speed. The EU-funded STMICRO project is tackling this issue by combining ultrafast laser technology and electron microscopy to resolve terahertz dynamics. It will enhance our fundamental knowledge of electron transport while opening the door to a step change in prototype diagnostics for the next generation of micro- and nanoelectronics.


Progress in modern information processing relies on the combination of a few-nanometer structures with ever-increasing signal speeds approaching the terahertz (THz) level and beyond. However, the design of such devices is currently restricted by our inability to see and measure the underlying charge carrier dynamics at sufficient resolution in time and space. This proposal aims at solving this problem by combining femtosecond laser technology with electron microscopy for achieving sub-nanometer and multi-THz space-time resolution of electromagnetic fields and charge motion in future microelectronic devices. It relies on the recently demonstrated technique of electron pulse compression down to femtoseconds by means of optical radiation. Electron pulses can capture the electric fields in structures as small as atoms at an instant of time. While conventional electron microscopy is the main tool allowing to see modern nanometer-sized electronic components, it can only sense the structure of devices and not how they operate dynamically. In contrast, femtosecond electron microscopy allows to resolve THz dynamics. Here, in order to drive microelectronic components at THz frequencies, laser-generated THz pulses will be used. Furthermore, a variation of scanning nanotip microscopy will be added providing ultrafine spatial resolution. In combination, this will allow to visualize charge motion and electric fields in microelectronic devices in real-time at with unprecedented space-time resolution. This investigation will critically expand our fundamental knowledge of electron transport at extremely high frequencies, which is necessary for designing future microelectronic devices. Furthermore, it will introduce a disruptive diagnostic solution for industry to see their current and future prototypes while in operation, in order to guide future micro- and nano-electronics towards faster frequency regimes than current technology allows.


Net EU contribution
€ 162 806,40
Universitatsstrasse 10
78464 Konstanz

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Baden-Württemberg Freiburg Konstanz
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00