The Institute for Microelectronics and Microsystems
The Institute for Microelectronics and Microsystems (IMM), belonging to the Physics and Matter Technologies Department of CNR, is organized in 7 Sections, located in Agrate Brianza (Mi), Bologna, Rome, Naples, Lecce and two Sections in Catania (the Headquarters and at the Univ. of Catania). The Institute has a permanent staff of 195 people (117 of them Researchers) and a temporary staff including 47 post-docs and 61 PhD students.
The research activity is focused on innovative solutions for micro and nanoelectronics, advanced materials and processes for smart components, optoelectronics and photonics, sensors and multifunctional micro/nanosystems. In particular, the main research areas are:
- Nanostructured materials (Graphene and two dimensional materials beyond graphene, Semiconductor nanowires and nanomaterials, Oxide and metal nanostructures, Self-assembled nanosystems)
- Materials and devices for Information Storage and Processing (Advanced contact schemes and doping strategies, Spintronic Devices, Nanomaterials for phase change memories, Memristive devices and neuromorphic computing, Quantum Information Processing)
- MEMS and MOEMS (Metamaterials for RF and microwave applications, SiC films for sensors or free-standing MEMS structures, RF-MEMS switches, Silicon flexural resonators for strain sensors)
- Flexible and Large area electronics (Inorganic flexible electronics, Graphene based devices, Organic electronics, Low temperature inorganic films for flexible sensors)
- Materials and processes for RF and Power devices (hetero-epitaxial growth of 3C-SiC on Si, processing development for SiC and GaN devices)
- Energy conversion devices (Materials for 3rd generation solar cells, including silicon nanodots and nanowires, graphene, perovskites, Ultra-thin transparent and conductive films, 3C-SiC, Plasmonics, nano-rectenna)
- Photonic materials and devices (Silicon photonics, Biomimetics and metamaterial-based devices for hybrid integration, Fiber optic based devices)
- Sensors and multifunctional micro/nanosystems (Materials for sensing technology, Components for multifunctional sensing systems, Integrated smart multifunctional micro/nanosystems)
- Micro and Nanoscale characterization and imaging (Electron Microscopy Techniques, Scanning Probe Techniques, Light Microscopy Techniques, X-Rays and Ion beam techniques)
- Theory, numerical simulation and modelling (Theory of coherent and correlated quantum systems, Density Functional Theory and ab-initio simulations, Simulations of processes and devices from the meso- to the macro-scale)
IMM activities span from material science and process development to device fabrication and system integration, thanks to the micro-nanofabrication facilities present at the different sites (clean-room areas totaling >1400 m2). Through the participation to many European projects, IMM benefits from collaboration with prestigious international research institutions, such as Laboratoire d'Electronique de Technologie et d'Instrumentation (LETI), Interuniversity MicroElectronics Center (IMEC), European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), Centro Nacional de Microelectrónica (CNM), and with many semiconductor industries, including STMicroelectronics (ST), Micron, Philips, SILVACO, AMD, Tower Semiconductor and Siemens. Particularly effective is the collaboration with STMicroelectronics, with two IMM Sections embedded in ST plants in Catania and Agrate Brianza, allowing the successful development of public-private initiatives. Furthermore, IMM has a close collaboration with many Universities (one of its Section being located within the Physics Dept. of the University of Catania) and also carries out an important role in the formation, coordinating many PhD and graduate student activities. As a result, IMM effectively bridges the Academic Institution research activities with the Industrial applications, as also clearly demonstrated by the location of some IMM Sections. It should be underlined that the strong interaction with companies does not prevent, but often promotes the development of basic research activities. Indeed, some challenges in nanoelectronics require “More than Moore” solutions, with expected long-term practical applications. The Institute is active in many emerging fields related to nanotechnologies (low-dimensional systems, new materials for memories and spintronics, graphene, etc.), sometime generating innovative know-hows also for non-electronic applications.
Due to the strong industrial interaction, IMM research programs include also specific aspects addressed by the Industrial partners. Particularly relevant is the participation to the projects, led by ST, and funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) regarding: the development of flexible electronics for smart disposable systems (PLAST_ICs); power electronics based on SiC and GaN for the control and conversion of electric power for automotive and industrial applications (AMBITION POWER); third generation photovoltaics (ENERGETIC); new PV-technologies for smart systems integrated in buildings; micro and nanotechnologies for advanced biomedical systems (HIPPOCRATES). Another relevant ERDF funded project is the Public-Private Partnership for research, development and validation of innovative technologies and services for Ambient Assisted Living (INNOVAAL). IMM also collaborates with Alenia Aermacchi on several projects related to aerospace and is partner of a number of Technological Districts, stimulated by the Italian Ministry for University and Research. IMM is member of the Technological Districts “Micro and Nanosystems” in Sicily, “Hi-MECH (high mechanic technology)” in Emilia Romagna and the Aerospace District of the Campania.
IMM coordinates or is partner of several European projects and among these are worth mentioning those on: water control (AQUASYSTEM) and the application of nanotechnology for water treatments (WATER); graphene and 2D semiconductors (EU GRAPHENE FLAGSHIP, 2D-NANOLATTICES); MEMS for detection of illicit substances (DOGGIES, DIRAC); microelectrode arrays for brain signal recording and stimulation (CORTICONIC); synthesis and functionality of chalcogenide nanostructures for phase change memories (SYNAPSE); self-assembled structures for nanometrology and nanostructured devices (CRYSTAL,TREND); organic electronics (COSMIC), volumetric scanning microwave microscopy for non-destructive 3D nanoscale structural characterization (V-SMMART NANO); energy for a green society: from sustainable harvesting to smart distribution: equipments, materials, design solutions and their applications (ERG, funded by ENIAC JTU); development of a critical mass of Ambient Assisted Living applications, products and services (ReAAL); innovation for age-friendly environments in the European Union (AFE-INNOVNET) ); the ERDF funded projects on smart systems enabling services to assist individuals in monitoring their health conditions (AA@H), treatment and aids for domestic healthcare (BAITAH) and remote rehabilitation system for Alzheimer patients (ALTRUISM). Thanks to the project Beyond-Nano, also funded by ERDF, IMM has recently installed a sub-Angstrom ARM200F Scanning TEM, which, thanks to its exceptional features, makes the facility one the most powerful tool for structural analysis in Europe.
IMM has an annual operating budget, averaged over the last three fiscal years, around €24 million, including €9.8 million of personnel costs and €1.4 million of running costs supported by CNR and €12.8 million arising from European Regional Development Funds, European, International, National projects and Industrial research contracts (see the pie chart below)
Distribution of external annual funding (averaged over the period 2011-2013)
Scientific results are presented to many International Conferences and more than 220 articles are published by IMM researchers on JCR journals every year.
Number of articles published on JCR Journals per year
L’elettronica in grafene potrebbe funzionare molto più velocemente di quella in Si in virtù della sua struttura intrinseca. Aprire inoltre alla realizzazione di dispositivi inimmaginabili in silicio, quali dispositivi quantistici, memorie spintroniche, circuiti trasparenti per applicazioni fotovoltaiche e circuiti integrati in substrati tessili. Il grafene è come un foglio di esagoni, ai vertici atomi di carbonio, che si ripetono sul piano formando una struttura a nido d’ape dello spessore di un solo atomo. Il grafene presenta lunghezze di diffusione dei portatori molto elevate e moto balistico anche a temperatura ambiente, ne seguono mobilità fino a diversi ordini di grandezza maggiori che in Si. Con una bassissima produzione di calore che può garantire anche densità di corrente estremamente elevate, e grazie anche ad altre proprietà (elevata velocità di saturazione dei portatori, alta conducibilità termica) il grafene si presenta come un materiale estremamente avvincente per realizzare dispositivi elettronici dalle caratteristiche strabilianti (ad esempio senza dispersione di energia). Il grafene è stato isolato per la prima volta solo nel 2004 da A. Geim e K. Novoselov che hanno ottenuto già quest’anno il Nobel per la Fisica per la loro scoperta.
I ricercatori dell’IMM sono impegnati nello sviluppo dell’elettronica in grafene (sviluppo di metodologie per produrre materiale in fogli di grandi dimensioni e dispositivi innovativi) già dal 2005. Sono stati tra i primi a misurarne le proprietà localmente, mediante l’introduzione di nuove metodologie con risoluzione nanometrica. In particolare, mediante un microscopio a scansione capacitiva hanno misurato localmente la “quantum capacitance” e da questa ricavato le variazioni locali della lunghezza di diffusione e della mobilità dei portatori. Sono in grado quindi di ottenere mappe locali della densità locale degli stati, della lunghezza di diffusione e della mobilità. Tali misure hanno permesso di chiarire i meccanismi di trasporto di carica nel grafene su materiali diversi ed il contributo di vari difetti quali quelli da irraggiamento o di corrugamenti formatisi durante la crescita. Intanto gli studi proseguono all’interno di un progetto europeo coordinato da IMM “GRAPHIC-RF” nell’ambito del programma Eurographene finanziato dalla European Science Foundation. I ricercatori di IMM già oggi sono in grado di crescere e depositare grafene con vari metodi e su diversi substrati, persino intere fette di SiC, sono in grado di caratterizzarlo anche con le metodologie innovative sviluppate, ed hanno maturato la capacità di realizzarvi dispositivi elettronici.