Design of an Interface with a Built-in Figure of Merit for Transporting Air-Sensitive Material

Physical Sciences : Materials and Compounds

Available for licensing

Inventors

  • Hugo Celio, Ph.D. , Texas Materials Institute
  • Justin Johnson , Texas Materials Institute
  • Charles Schlechte , Texas Materials Institute

Background/unmet need

Oxygen and water exposure (oxidation) and hydrocarbon contamination of samples are major challenges to researchers in the field of surface analysis. Surface analysis allows researchers to determine the elemental and molecular composition of materials. Analysis of material samples usually takes place within one to ten nanometers of a given material. In order to minimize oxygen, water, and hydrocarbon exposure, it is critical for researchers to be able to transfer air-sensitive materials from an atmospheric pressure environment (e.g., glove box filled with an inert gas) to an ultra-high vacuum (UHV) chamber equipped with a surface analysis instrument. While several commercial transfer capsules are readily available, they lack the capability to evaluate sample transfer reliability when transitioning from atmospheric pressure to UHV conditions.

Invention Description

UT Austin researchers have designed an interface, equipped with a load lock, differentially pumped chambers, and an airtight transfer capsule, which is able to minimize oxidation and contamination of materials. During sample transfer from a glove box to a surface analysis UHV chamber, exposure to trace levels of oxygen and water depend on the purity of argon (or nitrogen) in the glove box, not on the design of the interface. The interface also contains a built-in figure of merit (FOM) as a semi-quantitative method to monitor the transfer reliability as well to evaluate levels of gaseous contaminants (e.g., hydrocarbons).

Benefits/Advantages

  • High reliability and repeatability
  • Cost comparable to alternative commercially available interfaces/load lock UHV chambers
  • Reduces oxidation and monitors contamination of environmentally sensitive material samples
  • Detects gaseous contaminants from glove boxes filled with an inert gas (e.g., argon or nitrogen)

Features

    Compatible with surface analysis instruments, such as those used for X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectroscopy (TOF-SIMS), including all commercial glove boxes

Market potential/applications

Lithium-ion battery and nanoelectronic device markets
XPS market; e.g., Kratos Analytical, Physical Electronics, Thermo Scientific, Omicron (part of Oxford Instruments Group as a part of the Nanotechnology Tools division)
UHV chamber and equipment vendors (Kurt J. Lesker)
TOF-SIMS market

Development Stage

Beta product/commercial prototype

IP Status

  • 2 foreign copyrights registered
  • 1 foreign patent application filed
  • 1 U.S. patent application filed
  • 1 U.S. patent issued: 9,945,761