The departments and other units of the University of Debrecen (UD) that investigate and research issues in the field of materials science have cooperated with the Institute for Nuclear Research (Atomki) for several decades.
“We have developed the laboratory together since the very beginning. When we moved the Institute of Physics to its Bem tér location, it turned out that we should not install the electron microscopes there because of the mechanical and electric noise generated by the trams passing by the building. Therefore, it was Atomki that provided us with the necessary venues. It was also in Atomki that we began to construct our thin film production equipment,” said Professor Csaba Cserháti of the Department of Solid State Physics at UD, reminiscing about the days of old.
Zoltán Erdélyi, Head of the Department of Solid State Physics at the Faculty of Science and Technology, UD, added that, for several years of cooperation with Atomki, they took turns in further upgrading and developing the pool of equipment as much as it was possible at that time. The modernization of the laboratories, which had been expanded in the meanwhile, was subject to a strong impulse from a GINOP grant awarded in 2017 and the resulting project launched and completed jointly by the consortium of the University of Debrecen and Atomki, headed by the professor. As a consequence, a research and industrial cooperation base was formed in materials science, which was then further developed as a research center of excellence.
“In the framework of the project, we purchased new pieces of equipment, including a focused ion beam processing instrument, which can be used for atomic-scale “milling” or machining materials, a Raman-AFM microscope for surface characterization, and a spectroscopic ellipsometer. We replaced the old and obsolete thin film X-ray diffraction apparatus and we also upgraded our transmission electron microscope to be suitable for analytic examinations,” said Department Head Zoltán Erdélyi, listing the items in the four-year record of achievements.
Professor Erdélyi underlined that the equipment pool provides a unique opportunity for producing and inspecting (nano)structures as well as for research and development purposes. At the same time, it also caters for educational requirements related to the University of Debrecen, while it furnishes development and innovation background support to international corporations located in our region to solve problems related to production technology.
“At present, we have a coherent set of instruments and pieces of equipment, which is quite unique in Central-Eastern Europe, as it enables us to implement nanotechnology-level analysis and construction at atomic layer thickness. Functioning as an open-access center, our lab complex attracts cooperating partners from Hungary and abroad alike. In our laboratories, users can access a broad range of thin-film production options, such as magnetron sputtering, thermal and plasma-assisted atomic layer deposition (ALD, PE-ALD) and evaporation. A series of furnaces provide heat treatment of the samples to be tested in different atmospheres and vacuum (HV, UHV) in order to study the thermal stability of thin films, layer systems, atomic motion processes or the formation dynamics of various phases. Micro and nanoscale sampling is provided by equipment such as scanning electron microscopes (SEMs), one of which is equipped with a focused ion beam processing set (FIB / SEM), including a transmission electron microscope (TEM) suitable for atomic and nanoscale structures. Our Raman microscope is combined with a nuclear force microscope, a spectroscopic ellipsometer, or a combined device capable of analyzing samples in a common vacuum system using secondary neutral mass spectrometry (SNMS), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and low energy ion (LEPS) by contact force microscopy (nc-AFM). A modern thin-film X-ray machine is also available for structural analysis of the samples. Although our field of research focuses chiefly on nanotechnology, our instruments and knowledge base also enable us to solve the problems of classic materials science,” said Professor Zoltán Erdélyi.
Department Head Erdélyi also expressed his hopes concerning the possibility that more and more industrial companies in our region would recognize the opportunities inherent in the services rendered by Materials Science Research Network and contact the laboratories in search of solutions to their production technological problems and development assignments.