September 18, 2003 – Seiko Instruments Inc. is reportedly breaking new ground by fabricating needles for use as probe tips in scanning probe microscopy (SPM), according to the Nikkei Business Daily.
Conventional SPM probes have pyramidal shapes, preventing them from probing deep into trenches on semiconductors. On the other hand, skinny carbon nanotubes aren’t stiff enough to be used as effective probes.
By exposing carbon or tungsten probe tips to a stream of gas and gallium ions, Seiko has developed a way to elongate them into long, sharp needles — 80nm in diameter and 2-3 microns in length — that can be used at trenches as deep as 1 micron on the substrate.
Seiko plans to market the new probe tips by the end of this year.