Manufacturing graphene in quantity is becoming an issue for industry. While the material was in the R&D phase, producing small amounts was not difficult, but as the single-layer carbon material becomes more accepted in various sectors, production methods are lacking.
German-based technology company Aixtron has now launched systems designed to produce graphene coatings over large areas at a high rate for low costs, and claims that its system can produce 20,000 m² of graphene per year – some 200 times higher than existing production techniques.
Aixtron is a partner of the European Graphene Flagship, a European Commission-funded research, innovation and collaboration organisation set up as a FET (Future Emerging Technologies) initiative. These are intended to accelerate development and implementation of technologies in targeted areas, which include quantum computing and analysing data gathered from studies of the human brain. In total, these three FET Flagships have a €1bn budget.
The company has unveiled two new systems: Neutron and CCS 2D. The former is a roll-to roll system capable of depositing large areas of graphene onto metal foils under ambient conditions; while the latter enables wafer-scale production of graphene on insulating wafers, which Aixtron claims is a breakthrough that will speed up development of new graphene electronics.
Neutron brings the production of large areas of graphene beyond academic circles and to the factory floor, said programme manager Alex Jouvray, who is also a work package leader for production for the Graphene Flagship.
“The foil that is coated with graphene enters and exits the Neutron system under ambient conditions,” said Jouvray. “Since it doesn’t need a vacuum, the Neutron can be easily placed inline at graphene manufacturing plants.”
Large-area monolayer graphene produced using this novel technique could lead to applications in transparent conductors, wearable devices, and coatings. Moreover, Jouvray added, the machine will reduce the cost per square metre of graphene CVD (chemical vapour deposition) films by two orders of magnitude.
CCS 2D is intended to solve a challenging problem in the semiconductor industry: creating graphene coatings on surfaces that are not flat and are contaminated with metals which need to be cleaned off before the component can be used in a semiconductor fabrication facility. The machine was developed by building on the research of a group led by Camilla Coletti of the Italian Institute of Technology, which originally developed the close coupled showerhead (CCS) reactor to grow graphene on insulating wafers.
This technique distributes process gases evenly across the substrate by blowing them through a watercooled “showerhead”. Aixtron scaled up Coletti’s technique to enable coating across 2-inch up to 8-inch wafers. The wafers exhibit low contamination levels that meet the requirements of semiconductor fabs directly after growth.
Coletti said: “Such tremendous progress is only possible thanks to the Graphene Flagship project which brings together top scientists from academia and engineers from a world-leading equipment company.”
As well as graphene, the system can also produce other layered materials, such as boron nitride or transition metal dichalcogenides at large-scale, Aixtron said.