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Periodic Reporting for period 2 - NFFA-Europe (NANOSCIENCE FOUNDRIES AND FINE ANALYSIS - EUROPE)

Reporting period: 2017-03-01 to 2018-08-31

NFFA-Europe research infrastructure (RI) ( is fully operational and has performed its planned actions in all activities. NFFA-Europe provides integrated access opportunities to a constantly updated and upgraded set of advanced tools and methods for nanoscience ( An average 30 international groups per call (4 calls/year) were selected from a larger number of proposals on a purely scientific merit basis by an international access review panel (ARP), after interactive assessment of the feasibility by the Technical Liaison Network. A partial update of the access rules was done to favour SME (single technique access) and joint use of large-scale infrastructures (neutrons and synchrotron X-rays). The Second NFFA Summer School has reached a broad international participation. The smooth operation of the TA programme underwent a thorough analysis and revision after the mid-term internal review and a plan for the redistribution of resources has been developed to meet the effective demand by users. This has led to the submission of an amendment to extend the action until August 2020, to accomplish 4 full years of TA as planned. The JRAs led to the expected results with transfer to the user services of all-new methodologies and techniques. The time extension, without budgetary changes, will allow supporting the assistance to the implementation of the JRA-originated new facilities. The overall deliverable and milestone plans of the second period have been respected, or clear justification of delays has been submitted.
The NFFA-Europe nanolabs co-located with analytical large scale facilities (ALSFs) provide over 80 techniques ( in the four installations now including the outcome of Joint Research Activities (JRA). A Single Entry Point (SEP) ( gives access to the catalogue and is supported by the user guide ( covering all eligibility criteria for academic and industrial proposals (recently updated to spur the participation of SMEs, theory applicants, proposals for joint synchrotron and neutron access). The Technical Liaison Network (TLNet) assesses the feasibility of the proposals and assigns the most suitable access node or optimum combination of nodes. An independent Access Review Panel ranks the scientific merit. Those successful proposals are granted TA with travel and subsistence covered within limits, upon acceptance of the access rules ( Users and Transnational Access (TA) providers compile a report on every access. Nine calls have been evaluated to date, with an average of 33 proposals/call and 64% success rate. The TLNet is the backbone of NFFA-Europe, providing skills and technical information across the NFFA-Europe multidisciplinary and multi-site RI; its hub in Trieste coordinates the experts at each NFFA-Europe core sites. An ICT platform shares and updates information on all the technical aspects of user proposals, keeps updated the catalogue of the SEP, monitors the effective availability and booking of each instrument, and offers an e-forum for pre-access users-TLNet interaction. The JRAs have developed and matured prototypes and new installations with strong overlap to TAs. In parallel to this, a number of cross-JRAs meetings are organized to cross-fertilize ideas, as in the case of the ‘shrinking buckyballs’ outcome. JRAs in NFFA-Europe are developing a close and collaborative cooperation with EUDAT. The first Information and Data Management Repository Platform (IDRP) for nanoscience comprises metadata standards developed in strong collaboration of NA and WP8 (JRA3) and promoted within the Research Data Alliance. The web interface deployed by NFFA-Europe is online and accessible from a Virtual Private Network (VPN). NFFA was announced in more than 40 conferences via oral contributions, posters or stands. Supporting materials (poster, brochure, roll-ups, videos) help the outreach actions and consolidate NFFA branding and identity. Three issues of a Newsletter and a full-page advertisement on Physics World Focus on Nanotechnology of the Institute of Physics were published. Two summer training schools were held respectively at the UAB campus in Barcelona (July 2016) and at CNR-IOM and Elettra premises in the Basovizza Campus, Trieste, Italy (July 2018, 31 attendees from 13 countries). Dedicated actions has been undertaken in order to better engage with industry (European Analytical Research Infrastructure Village (EARIV)) for teaming up among Analytical research infrastructures to better serve the industrial community. Receiving the recommendations conveyed in occasion of the Mid-term Action assessment by the external reviewer, specific initiatives have been undertaken to approach the community of nano-safety and nano-toxicology, and to increase notoriety by the general public.
User research is expected to offer progress beyond the state of the art in their disciplines. The proposals received ranged from fundamental surface phenomena to energy related applications, advanced devices, processing in spintronics, optoelectronics and microelectronics. Material systems include nano-objects (nanofibers, nanorods, nanowires, nanoparticles, quantum wells…), 2D materials and thin films. Within this diversity, chalcogenides and dichalcogenides (as novel 2D materials in the wake of graphene) and resist materials for higher resolution lithography in nanoelectronics are examples of frontier research. The Industrial Liaison Network (ILNet) addresses the industry with the added value of the multi-platform approach. About 10% of applications were driven by industry (double of target). The industry and business development staff of the NFFA-Europe nodes works closely together with the TLNet to develop market understanding and efficient access and to implement an access feasibility programme.
The Joint Research activities have developed and matured prototypes soon available for users (already introduced in the catalogue) enlarging further the broad platform of advanced techniques and methodologies available. The Information and Data Repository Platform (IDRP) has been developed and its beta testing campaign has been run. In JRA1, the Fast-scan module developed in the frame of Task 6.1 was proved to be applicable also to AFM. Combining high resolution imaging in X-ray microscopy and diffractive X-ray lenses by means of line-doubling (D6.3 D6.6 D6.7) Fresnel zone plates with a spatial resolution of 18 nm were commissioned and tested. Controlled and reproducible fabrication of structures has been pushed to structural sizes below 10 nm in JRA2. Upgrades of pump-probe setups and theory tools for ultrafast science have been put in place for users in JRA4, and modular nano-transfer routines to efficiently identify the nano-region of interest with nm precision, have been developed and tested in JRA5.
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