Funded Research Projects
The development of new battery materials is key to improving the performance, lifetime, safety and cost of energy storage technologies such as Li-ion batteries for electric vehicles. However, innovation is hampered by the inability of industry to reliably characterise their structure and chemistry in an operating environment. This project will build a metrological framework supporting traceable operando characterisation of state-of-the-art battery materials under dynamic charge / discharge conditions. This includes advancement and validation of ex situ methods, establishing new protocols, cells and a best practice guide for operando approaches and developing new instrumentation enabling hybrid, multiparameter measurement to inform new materials development.
The overall aim of the project is to investigate and exploit quantized conductance effects in memristive devices for the realization of quantum-based standards of resistance working reliably, in air and at room temperature with scalability down to nanometer precision. In particular, the project focus is on the development of memristive model systems and nanometrological characterization techniques at the nanoscale in memristive devices for understanding and controlling quantized effects in memristive devices, enabling the realization of a standard of resistance implementable on-chip for self-calibrating systems with zero-chain traceability in the spirit of the revised SI.
Energy harvesting (EH) from renewable sources (solar, heat and movement) is seen as a prominent solution to our world energy problems with the shift now from micro- to nanoscale devices. Nanowire (NW) based EH systems have achieved encouraging progress, but due to nm-dimensions and large device size (m2) they also bring challenges for testing and characterisation. Averaged properties of EH devices can be measured, but a quantitative link and correlation between the performance of single NWs and that of the overall device is lacking. Reliable and high throughput metrology for the quality control of NW EH systems will be developed.
Air pollution is an environmental and social issue and a complex metrology challenge. Air pollutants come from anthropogenic and natural sources, raising health and climate change concerns. Accurate aerosol metrology - dimensional quantification and chemical analysis - is a prerequisite for enforcing regulations, protecting human health, research on climate change, and atmospheric processes. This project provides methodological improvements and closes knowledge gaps where the existing technological metrology imperfections impair its intended use. These areas are calibration of particle size spectrometers, pollen monitoring and chemical characterization of ambient aerosols. The project also responds to challenges regarding aerosol instruments used by non-experts.
Measurements of aerosol particles are vital for enforcing EU air quality regulations to protect human health, and for research on climate change effects. Although metrics such as the mass concentration of airborne particulate matter (PM) including PM10 (inhalable particles with diameters of 10 micrometres and smaller) and PM2.5 (fine inhalable particles, with diameters of 2.5 micrometres and smaller) are currently in use the level of uncertainty is too high and the traceability is insufficient.
The innate resistance of Gram-negative bacteria to antibiotics is a consequence of the combinatorial effects of two permeability barriers: the outer and inner bacterial cell membranes, their ability to efflux antibiotics out of the cell and their capacity to form antibiotic tolerant biofilms that are up to 100 times more resistant than planktonic bacterial cells. The objectives of this project are to advance the measurement capability by providing the urgently needed essential metrology to quantitatively measure and image the localisation of antibiotics and to understand the penetration and efflux processes in bacteria and biofilms.
Consumer demand for faster, smarter and cheaper products drives innovation in high value-added technologies. To satisfy these demands industry is increasingly using 3D micro and nanoscale architectures, additive manufacturing and new material combinations from a rapidly expanding library of materials. This increases the need for capabilities to measure the chemical composition of complex materials and devices with 3D-spatial resolution.
The 3DMetChemIT project addresses major challenges in the analysis of buried interfaces and heterogeneous organic-inorganic materials to develop beyond state-of-the-art capabilities, trusted methods and reference materials for 3D-resolved chemical analysis using secondary ion mass spectrometry, atom probe tomography and grazing-incidence x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy.
Nanoparticles are increasingly used in innovative products manufactured by advanced industries and provide enhanced, unique properties of great commercial and societal value. The demand for high performance materials places increasingly stringent tolerances on the properties of nanoparticles. The Innanopart project focuses on the major unmet metrological needs in the production of high quality nanomaterials: measuring the concentration of particles and measuring the surface chemistry. These two measurements are critical to the performance of these novel materials in products and the development of valid measurement approaches, supported by documentary standards, will underpin trade and the supply chain for these novel products.
“Crystalline surfaces, self assembled structures, and nanoorigami as length standards in (nano)metrology”
The currently available standards for length metrology at nanoscale suffer from two main obstacles which limit their possible application by stakeholders (semiconductor/nanotechnology industry, instrumentation manufacture, surface scientist, etc). Both, step height standards and lateral pitch standards, are only available down to specific limits, given by the production technology for these standards. These limits are 6 nm in case of step height and 70 nm for lateral resolution standards. Additionally the uncertainty limits for the current standards are too large (approximately a factor of 10) as required by the stakeholder.
The preparation of smaller step height prototypes suffers from their instability in air. For some research work 3 nm step height samples were produced at PTB, but the AFM images showed a very “noisy topography”. In research scientists try to use crystalline surfaces and single atomic steps produced on such surfaces. Typical materials used are graphite, mica, Au or glass. On graphite, however, the region near to a step is mostly loosely bonded to the underneath layer, and therefore the step height varies strongly.
In the case of lateral pitch standards a comparable situation has to be faced for application in atomic force microscopy (AFM) and interference microscopy. Here standards with lateral pitch values below p = 70 nm are missing and needed to fulfil market demands. By using averaging the standard measurement uncertainty can be very small. However, to check the linearity of AFM at that scale it is important to have accurate pattern with pitch values down to 10 nm over sufficiently large areas.
A revolution is occurring in the world of micro- and nano-electronics in terms of miniaturisation, power consumption and processing speed based on new organic materials and multi-layer films. Novel inorganic semiconductor materials and new 3D structures are replacing traditional silicon devices requiring new characterisation methods to facilitate their use in tomorrow’s electronics.
The EMRP project Traceable characterisation of nanostructured devices (TReND) developed robust methods for characterising inorganic nanolayers and sub-surface features for semiconducting materials.