BINA Announces Major Infrastructure Purchase: The Orion Nanofab from Zeiss
BINA’s instrumentation facility recently celebrated a new arrival: the Orion Nanofab – an advanced tool for the fabrication, manipulation and imaging of materials at sub-ten nanometer range.
The first of its class anywhere in Israel, the machine – manufactured by Zeiss –was purchased at the cost of two million dollars, making it the Institute’s single most significant infrastructure investment ever. The payback, however, is clear: the Nanofab’s outstanding capabilities will give BINA researchers – as well as academic collaborators and industrial clients – unprecedented control of the material samples with which they work.
“The Nanofab unites three different ion beam types in one system, creating three complementary functionalities,” explains Dr. Yafit Fleger, head of BINA’s Focused Ion Beam Unit, who, together with her colleague Dr. Yossi Talyosef, is supervising the installation and operation of the new equipment. “The Gallium ion beam is used to make big cuts into a sample and remove material. The Neon ion beam allows finer, high-precision cuts. And with the Helium ion beam, we can achieve the smallest, most delicate manipulations of all, reaching a cutting resolution of just four nanometers. This is much higher resolution than our existing facilities, where 20 nm was the lower limit.”
Talyosef, who directs BINA’s lab for scanning electron microscopy (SEM), says that the Orion Nanofab’s imaging capabilities are also unprecedented.
“In SEM, the best possible resolution is 0.7 nanometers, but with this device, we can clearly observe structures less than half that size,” he explains. “This can lead to dramatic new discoveries.”
The Nanofab can be used to examine magnetic materials, and – in the case of biological samples – offers a distinct advantage over SEM technology. “SEM requires that non-conductive samples be treated with a conductive coating, but this can affect analysis,” Talyosef explains. “For example, MIT researchers who switched from SEM to the Nanofab system recently discovered something new on the surface of kidneys. It was always there, but the conductive coatings they’d been using had kept them hidden all these years!”
Fleger and Talyosef say that the new facility will be a boon to BINA researchers working on advanced materials for a wide range of applications, and has already attracted interest from collaborators at Hebrew University and the Technion. Industrial clients – from high tech, the military and elsewhere – are also expected to sign up for time on the new machine. First, however a few finishing touches remain.
“There is a plaster wall next to our air conditioning unit that we need to break through and remove before we officially open for business,” says Fleger, who laughingly refers to herself and Talyosef as the “mom and dad” of the newly-acquired equipment. “But once we finish up these last technical details, and get through the learning curve required for any new technology, I think the Nanofab going to make a significant contribution.”
Life science sample without conductive coating.