Although the fair focuses mainly on the Asian market, it is also very interesting for Russian professionals as it helps evaluate current trends in the research and development of nanomaterials and nanotechnologies, the measurement and process equipment.
Laboratory and production equipment: trends and new developments
In the probe and electron microscopy significant trends are the development of new measurement techniques, increase in work efficiency, improvement of accuracy and facilitation of servicing.
Bruker Corporation demonstrated the high-speed atomic force microscope (AFM) Dimension FastScan, which can scan with frequency higher than 125Hz. Due to the fact that it is possible to produce an image during one second, you can quickly identify an area for more detailed research thus contributing to the most effective work. Built-in measurement automation software simplifies instrument setup and processing of the measurement results. It should be noted that a high performance of the system is achieved without loss of resolution. Accuracy of measurements provides such solutions as precise force control at the tip and low-noise, temperature-compensated sensors.
One of the latest developments of the Agilent Technologies is Agilent 7500 AFM, which includes a closed-loop 90μm scanner, as well as solutions for environmental and temperature control. A scanner’s standard nose cone can be replaced by a easy-to-load nose cones for additional AFM techniques, which provides the desired scan mode in air or fluids. These nose cones are made from PEEK polymers, have low chemical reactivity, and can be utilized in a wide range of solvents. A special environmental chamber provides an easily accessible, sealed sample compartment that is completely isolated from the rest of the system. Humidity levels are monitored by sensors built into the chamber. Integrated temperature control minimises the temperature impact on the measurement results.
Shimadzu Corporation introduced the innovative high resolution scanning probe microscope SPM-8000FM. A feature of this device is the frequency modulation of a signal; according to the developers, it dramatically reduces the noise. With the new technology, the accuracy of measurement in the gas or liquid media approaches the results obtained in vacuum. The resolution on the X and Y axis is 0.2 nm, on the Z axis 0.01 nm.
Recent developments in electron microscopy were introduced by the Japanese companies Elionix and JEOL. The scanning electron microscope (SEM) ERA-9000 was demonstrated at the Elionix Inc. stand. The devices of that series were featured by a patented technology that allows us to supplement the traditional measurement technology with 3D observation.
One of the latest innovations of JEOL is a scanning electron microscope JSM-IT300 featuring advanced optical and vacuum systems. The signal processing algorithms were improved too. The new Less Charging mode reduces the number of artifacts in the images. Operating at a low vacuum pressure from 10 Pa to 650 Pa contributes to extending the range of materials suitable for measurement. The instrument can measure samples up to 2 kg.
Optical microscopes, although not providing the necessary resolution for the study of nanoscale objects, are still widely used in modern laboratories in microelectronics, materials science and biomedicine. The Keyence company demonstrated a wide range of digital optical microscopes, in particular, one of the latest models, VHX-2000. This microscope is characterised by the increased depth-of-field and free-angle observatione. Operation in the short-wavelength mode using a blue filter and an original pixel-shift technology provides greater resolution than traditional optical systems. The control software implements high-speed image stitching.
Trimos SA (Switzerland) introduced the TR Scan Premium digital holographic microscopy system designed for non-contact measurements of surfaces in the research and manufacture of medical devices, the substrates of printed circuit boards, semiconductor components, polymer films and optical components. One of the distinguishing features of the device is the ability to measure extreme reflecting, mirror-polished or small-size surfaces.
The device operates at very high speed, and it takes a few milliseconds to obtain three-dimensional images of the surface. This exceptional acquisition speed allows ignoring problems traceable to vibrations. Stable conditions of measurement are provided by the temperature compensation system. All the main functions are automatically controlled by the electronics.
Measuring instruments for the study of the physical and mechanical properties of materials are presented by CSM Instruments. It should be noted that in late 2013 this Swiss company was acquired by the German Anton Paar group but it retained its brand. At NanoTech demonstrated were nanoindentation testers that allows measurement of hardness, elastic modulus, the dynamic and static modulus of elasticity, plastic deformation and crack resistance.
The sample preparation equipment was presented by Leica Microsystems. In particular, presented was the fully motorized rotary microtome Leica RM2265 intended for the sectioning of soft or hard specimens for various research purposes and for quality control. The thickness of the sections is adjustable from 0.25 to 100 microns. A microtome is equipped with a variety of knives holders and the holders of samples also for the preparation of samples for electron microscopy.
In the market of the electron beam lithography systems designed for research and development in the field of micro-and nano-electronics one should single out the CABL-9000S unit produced by the Japanese company Crestec. A feature of this model is one of the highest resolutions in the class. The beam with a diameter of 2 nm is positioned with extreme accuracy. The system has a user-friendly and simple interface and can be controlled simultaneously by multiple users. The magnitude of the accelerating voltage is regulated in the range of 5 to 50 kV.
Awards for the breakthrough developments
One of the traditions of NanoTech is the awards for the most promising developments in the field of nanotechnology. The information about the innovations praised by the fair organisers is valuable in terms of identifying the promising areas of nanotechnology.
The "Grand Award" was awarded to the Toray Industries exhibiting a wide range of nanomaterials including nanofibers, conductive films and various biological and medical devices, in particular, the DNA chips. Such nanodevices make it possible to study genes with high precision and diagnose diseases or determine the tendency of patients to certain diseases based thereupon. A feature of Toray Industries is the development of particularly high sensitivity chips achieved by modifying the surface of the sensor at the nanoscale. The current projects of the corporation are aimed at creating instruments for the malignant tumour diagnosis.
In the "Life Nanotechnology" category, the award was given to the Fujifilm Corporation which demonstrated a compact and highly efficient system for the regenerative medicine.
A new technology developed by Toshiba Corporation was distinguished in the area of environmental solutions (Green Nanotechnology). It allows removing ultrafine particles with a size of less than 2.5 microns from the air. The fair organisers recognised Toshiba initiatives in the field of high-performance fuel cell catalysts and organic thinfilm solar cells.
The joint development of Scivax and Parity Innovations, a micromirror system based on optical elements fabricated by the nanoprinting lithography technology, was recognised as the most ingenious development (Originality Award). For example, this system can be used for reproducing three-dimensional images.
In the "New Face" category the award was given to the Nippon Kodoshi Corporation, which introduced a hybrid organic-inorganic membrane technology. Due to the combination of thermal resistance typical of inorganic compounds and flexibility of organic materials, such membranes can be used in the production of molecular filters, catalytic membranes or other similar products.
The world’s first nanoporous membrane for liquid dehydrating organised by Institute of NEDO was recognised as the best project in Green Nanotechnology Category. The membrane made of inorganic material is characterised by high chemical resistance and can be used to remove water from aggressive solvents such as alcohols and acids.
The unique cancer therapy system developed by the Japanese National Institute for Materials Science NIMS original was recognised as the best project in Life Technology Category. A special non-woven fabric composed of nanofibres, which can be heated by the electromagnetic field, was used as a drug carrier. When the fibres are heated, the drug will be released.
Awards were also given by the organisers to: Ashizawa Finetech, a grinding and dispersing equipment manufacturer for the continued participation in the fair; ZEON for the launched industrial production of single-walled carbon nanotubes by the technology developed by the Japanese National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology; the Czech company Elmarco for the equipment designed for the industrial production of nanofibres. It should be noted that Elmarco was the only non-Japanese company awarded by NanoTech.