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Global Players use Attolight’s Lab for Semiconductor Analysis

Attolight’s analysis lab attracts global players to campus.

In just over one year, Attolight’s analysis lab has analyzed over 250 semiconductor samples brought in by clients from around the world. Speed, resolution, ease of use, and occasional unexpected insights into their samples keep clients coming back.

Attolight first opened its analysis lab in April 2013 to give industrial and academic researchers working on semiconductor applications access to cathodoluminescence (CL) imaging, an increasingly popular technology with a wide range of applications for the development and characterization of semiconductor materials. To date, over 250 semiconductor samples have been brought in by clients, giving Attolight a chance to demonstrate the promise of its technology. Interested customers can sign up for a free day at company’s headquarters at EPFL’s campus in Lausanne, Switzerland, to see for themselves how they can benefit from CL.

Attolight’s solution makes CL imaging an easy-to-use technology that goes beyond more common imaging tools such as Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM), or X-ray Diffraction (XRD) by providing accurate spectroscopic information at a nano scale.. Where XRD provides insight into the bulk properties of a material, CL imaging lets engineers visually detect flaws on semiconductor materials down to the resolution of a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM).

According to David Gachet, who runs the testing facilities, visitors come with varying degrees of experience using CL imaging. Some rely on it on a regular basis as an add-on to SEMs or have used photoluminescence (PL), but would like to examine their samples at higher resolutions. Others have no prior experience with the technology.

Most often, clients come seeking assistance to validate steps in their development process. They bring in a sample – a LED wafer, made of GaN deposited on a silicon or sapphire substrate, for example – and would like to know its quality before moving on to the next development step. Others come to assess the utility of CL imaging in the prospect of investing in the equipment.

Whichever is the case, they are systematically astonished by the quality and the quantity of the results they walk away with after a single day’s work. CL imaging provides a spatial resolution that can be as high as 10 nanometers. Preparation time is short, and data acquisition is extremely rapid, with large sample areas scanned in a matter of minutes. And using the touchscreen control interface, navigating across the sample and acquiring data are made easy. In fact, once the samples are mounted, clients often choose to work on their own.

Besides providing access to its infrastructure, Attolight provides a palette of analytical services. Their proprietary software can automatically quantify flaws on a sample. Drawing on the expertise gained over the years working with CL imaging, clients can request support in interpreting the results, which sometimes offer unexpected, highly beneficial insights. “Often, our measurements reveal issues that the clients were not even looking for. These observations can help them catch errors well ahead of time, ultimately saving them time and money,” says David.

And now, clients keen on having their samples analyzed can participate in the process without having to leave their research facilities. The analysis lab is equipped with a video conferencing set-up that lets researchers remotely assist the measurement sessions.

Attolight’s lab has attracted some of the company’s targeted industries big names to the EPFL campus. These include global players in solar cell and LED development that are seeking new and better ways to characterize their samples and develop their technological platforms. In 2014, Attolight signed several service contracts and joined partnerships that are likely to lead to the development of solutions more dedicated to the industry, for on-line and off-line quality control.