New NFO Technology Cuts Thin Film Cost

A team of researchers from North Carolina State University and the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a more cost-effective way to manufacture textured, nickel ferrite (NFO) ceramic thin films. The new technology uses a chemical vapor deposition (CVD) process, which allows researchers to build thin films with an ordered crystalline array.

This structure enhances the material’s magnetic qualities. NFO magnetic technology holds immense potential for next-generation memory technologies and microwave devices.

Chemical Vapor Deposition

The chemical vapor deposition (CVD) process refers to a category of manufacturing procedures commonly used in the semiconductor and solar industries.  The procedures concern the deposit of a solid material, from a gaseous phase, onto a substrate or wafer.

One of the key components of the CVD process entails a gas delivery system, which supplies precursors to the reactor chamber. When the gases come into contact with the heated substrate, the gases decompose (react) and form a solid layer over the substrate.

The NFO Technique

This CVD process allows manufacturers to add additional materials to the “doping” step, including zinc. Applying a layer of doping to the substrate affects its ability to conduct electricity. The first step to manufacturing NFO thin films entails the creation of a NFO solution made from an organic solvent combined with iron and nickel compounds.

The other steps include:

·         Spread platinum on silicon wafer.

·         Introduce the NFO solution to wafer.

·         Spin wafer to spread the solution evenly across the surface.

·         Heat the wafer to dissolve the solvent.

·         Reheat the wafer at a temperature of 750 degrees Celsius, which solidifies the NFO.

According to the researchers, CVD procedures also make the material flexible and applicable for a diverse range of applications.  Researchers enhanced the ability of NFO to maintain its magnetic properties at higher temperatures by adding zinc to the doping process.

Dr. Justin Schwartz, Department Head and Distinguished Professor of the Materials Science and Engineering Department at NC State, co-authored the paper (published in the Journal of Applied Physics) and introduced the new technology.

He revealed that one of the previous obstacles to moving ahead with this technology was the inability to apply the technique over a large area. The new method can deposit NFO thin film over an area “at least” 10 centimeters by 10 centimeters large, according to Dr. Schwartz.


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