Ultrafast High-Throughput Atomic Force Microscopy (HT-AFM) will keep Moore’s Law alive. Amsterdam, 5 September 2017. Innovation Industries announced today that it has closed an investment in Nearfield Instruments B.V. The […]
Ultrafast High-Throughput Atomic Force Microscopy (HT-AFM) will keep Moore’s Law alive. Amsterdam, 5 September 2017. Innovation Industries announced today that it has closed an investment in Nearfield Instruments B.V. The investment will enable Nearfield Instruments to start the development of its first ultrafast High-Throughput Atomic Force Microscopy (HT-AFM) system for metrology of advanced integrated circuits (IC’s). Nearfield Instruments is a spin-off company of the Netherlands Organisation for applied-scientific Research TNO. Innovation Industries made this investment in syndication with Samsung Venture Investment Corporation.
Atomic scale dimensions
There’s a high demand for more powerful and lower power-consuming electronics for mobile devices and computer systems. To achieve new functionalities and to make optimum use of the available wafer space integrated circuit (IC) devices will shrink to atomic scale dimensions using novel, sensitive materials while at the same time being designed in a full three-dimensional configuration. In order to accommodate these trends in a technologically and economically viable way breakthroughs in metrology processes and equipment for IC device development and manufacturing are required. Without it, Moore’s Law would come to an end. Moore’s law is the observation that the number of transistors in a dense IC doubles approximately every two years.
Atomic Force Microscopy up to 1000x faster
Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) is a well-known technology for imaging the smallest features and often applied in research. An AFM system uses an atomically-sharp probe to scan (but just not touch) the surface of the sample under investigation to sense the pattern on it. However, AFM was always considered too slow for industrial applications. Five years ago, TNO initiated the NOMI (Nano-Optomechatronics Instrumentation) program, in which scientific research is combined with application know-how, which has led to multiple improvements to this technology with the potential to make AFM up to 1000x faster than traditional AFM-technology. This makes Nearfield Instruments’ AFM-solution of prime interest for the semiconductor industry.
Dr. Hamed Sadeghian, principal scientist at TNO and scientific leader of NOMI: “This patented revolutionary architecture is based on parallelizing AFM. The parallelization is achieved by miniaturizing the AFM and operating many of them simultaneously. This instrument has the advantage that each miniaturized AFM can be operated independently that allows one to measure several physical parameters simultaneously; while one mini AFM measures nano-scale topography, another instrument can measure mechanical, electrical, or thermal properties, making it a lab-on-an-instrument. The key to this was to miniaturize AFM to size of a match box to allow achieving very high measurement bandwidth, while achieving very high stability of nano-imaging by shortening the metrology loop.
Innovation Industries’ second investment
Innovation Industries made this investment to accelerate the market introduction of Nearfield’s High-Throughput AFM. Within the next few years, Nearfield Instruments will develop HT-AFM to a viable product for the semiconductor market. General Partner at Innovation Industries, Nard Sintenie comments: “We are very positive about the potentiality of Nearfield’s product and technology. Through our collaboration with Samsung Venture Investment Corporation we will do our best to help the company and its team to realize its strategy to help the semiconductor industry in its continuous strive towards even more powerful and lower power-consuming electronics.”
About Innovation Industries
Innovation Industries  is a specialist independent hightech VC fund, targeting Dutch companies that are developing commercially promising products and technologies in attractive technology fields like: nano/microtechnologies, semiconductors & integrated photonics, ICT & (cyber) security, clean technology, Food & Agro technology and medical technology (medical devices & diagnostics).
Nard Sintenie, General Partner
Harm de Vries, General Partner
About Samsung Venture Investment Corporation
Samsung Venture Investment Corporation manages investment and investment-related activities for Samsung affiliate companies, including Samsung Electronics. The investment mandate for Samsung Venture Investment Corporation tracks closely to the strategic priorities of Samsung affiliate companies’ core operating divisions, and encompasses investments in semiconductors, displays, telecommunications, and consumer electronics.
The Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) is an independent research organization. We connect people and knowledge to create innovations that boost the sustainable competitive strength of industry and well-being of society. This is our mission and it is what drives us, the over 3,000 professionals at TNO, in our work every day. We work in collaboration with partners and focus on five transitions that we have identified together with our stakeholders. TNO is established by law and exists as a legal entity by public law. The TNO-law gives us a number of special tasks and frameworks and linking it to specific conditions under which we have to perform our work. Based on these preconditions, we create independent and reliable solutions to the grand challenges our societies face.
About Nearfield Instruments B.V.
Please refer to the following movie.
Roland van Vliet (CEO)
 Sadeghian et al., High-throughput atomic force microscopes operating in parallel, Review of Scientific Instruments 88, 033703 (2017).
 The Innovation Industries is supported by InnovFin Equity, with the financial backing of the European Union under Horizon 2020 Financial Instruments and the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) set up under the Investment Plan for Europe. The purpose of EFSI is to help support financing and implementing productive investments in the European Union and to ensure increased access to financing (or the relevant translation).