Very small yet global

Standardization for nanotechnology set to boost global industry

By Morand Fachot

Nanotechnology, the manipulation of matter on atomic and molecular scales, is expected to be one of the key technologies of the 21st century, providing opportunities for the development of new products. The technology’s rapid growth requires International Standards for its move into an industrial phase. The Standards address materials as well as so-called gratings, which are objects used in nanotechnology.

Unidentified fine object (UFO) observed on a 200 nm-period grating (Electron micrograph by Rich Aucoin, MIT)

Defining the infinitely small

Nanotechnology covers objects at a nanoscale, which is defined as ranging from 1-100 nm (nanometre). A nanometre is equal to one billionth of a metre (or 10-9 m). Standardization in nanotechnology starts at the features and gratings levels.

Features are, in general, three-dimensional objects. They can also be nano-objects and have different shapes, such as a dot, a line, a groove, etc. They might be symmetric or non–symmetric and can be located on the surface of, or within, the substrate (“buried feature”).

Gratings are periodically-spaced collection of identical features.

Framing the building blocks

As artificial gratings are the primary building blocks in nanotechnology, it is essential to specify the generic terminology for the global and local quality parameters relating to them.

To do this, IEC TC (Technical Committee) 113: Nanotechnology standardization for electrical and electronic products and systems, has published IEC/TS 62622, Nanotechnologies – Description, measurement and dimensional quality parameters of artificial gratings.

IEC/TS 62622 is a Technical Specification prepared within the JWG (Joint Working Group) 2 of IEC TC 113 and ISO (International Organization for Standardization) TC 229.

Covering dimensional and other aspects

IEC/TS 62622 describes different dimensional grating types, such as:

  • 1D, in which features are repeated in only 1 direction within the reference plane
  • 2D, in which features are repeated in 2, non-parallel, directions within the reference plane
  • 3D, in which features are repeated in 3, non-parallel, directions, containing the reference plane.

The document also gives examples of various types and shapes of complex gratings.

Other parameters

IEC/TS 62622 “is intended to facilitate communication among manufacturers, users and calibration laboratories dealing with the characterization of the dimensional quality parameters of artificial gratings used in nanotechnology.”

To do so it details the essential specifications, quality and calibration methods and procedures the industry needs to assess global and local quality and to manufacture the right products.

IEC/TS 62622 also defines general requirements for an adequate documentation and reporting of calibration results.

Challenging work

Measuring and obtaining accurate parameters at such minute scales is extremely difficult and challenging. It requires a precise definition of measurement and assessment specifications and procedures. By doing so, IEC/TS 62622 paves the way for the industry to manufacture nano-enabled systems and goods that will emerge soon in areas including energy production, efficiency and storage; electric vehicles; next generation consumer electronics; lighting and other products, so sustaining industries expected to generate some USD 2 500 billion in 2015.

grating_org Unidentified fine object (UFO) observed on a 200 nm-period grating (Electron micrograph by Rich Aucoin, MIT)
nanogenerators_org Self-powered nanosensors developed by Georgia Tech (Photo: Gary Meek)
nanofoam Nanofoam