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A novel procedure to fabricate nano-engravings with improved optical contrast

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The research group “Materials and Nanotechnology Innovation Group” has developed a new method to engrave materials at the nanoscale, as well as a process for improving the visibility of such engravings by depositing a metal at nanoscale in the groove. Our fabrication method has innovative character because it provides a way of including a nano-engraving with optimized contrast on the surface of different materials, such as gemstones.

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Background

Los nanograbados se introducen en la superficie de los materiales usando haces de iones focalizados al voltaje adecuado en la cámara de vacío de un equipo FIB (focused ion beam). El diseño de los nanograbados se introduce a través de una imagen de mapa de bits (.bmp) en el software de control del equipo FIB.

El deposición del metal en los surcos tiene lugar mediante deposición química en fase vapor (CDV) usando una fuente de inyección de gas, y con el mismo patrón o imagen de mapa de bits que para el grabado. Los metales usados comúnmente para depositarlos son W, Pt y Au.

El grabado de superficies de materiales tiene aplicaciones en el campo de la joyería, entre otros. El grabado de piedras preciosas y otros materiales a nanosescala es de especial importancia para mantener el control necesario durante su distribución y venta. También permite convertirlos en piezas exclusivas y/o añadirles un valor sentimental por medio de una selección cuidadosa del diseño a grabar. Debido al carácter translúcido de la mayoría de las gemas, la visualización del grabado mediante medios ópticos no está generalmente optimizada.

La deposición de capas metálicas en los surcos puede mejorar su contraste, dando lugar a una visualización más clara.

Description

The nano-engravings are introduced on the surface of materials using focused ions with the appropriate current in the vacuum chamber of the focused ion beam (FIB) instrument. The design of the nano-engraving is introduced through a bitmap image (.bmp) in the control software of the FIB instrument.

The deposition of the metal in the grooves takes place by chemical vapor deposition (CVD) using an injection gas source, and with the same pattern or bitmat image that for the engraving. Normally, the metals that are deposited are W, Pt, and Au.

Engraving the surface of materials find applications in the field of jewelry, among others. Engraving gemstones and other materials at the nanoscale is important in order to keep the neccesary control during their distribution and sale. It also allows turning them into exclusive pieces and/or adding emotional value by a careful selection of the design to engrave. Because of the translucent character of most gemstones, the visualization of the engraving using optical means is normally not optimized. The deposition of metallic layers on the groove can improve its contrast, leading to a clearer visualization.

The offer includes the possibility of engraving materials at the nanoscale, and improving their visibility by depositing metallic layers, usually Pt, W or Au, in the groove.

One of the applications of these nano-engravings can be found in the field of jewelry. Engraving gemstones and other materials at the nanoscale allows a better control during their distribution and sale. It also allows producing exclusive jewels and/or adding emotional value by choosing the appropriate design to engrave. However, because of the translucent character of most gemstones, often the visualization of the engraving using optical means is not easy.

The improvement of the visibility of nano-engravings made in translucent materials can be done by depositing metals on the groove. This improvement in contrast occurs by different mechanisms. First, depositing an opaque material increases the reflexion and absorption of light with regard to the translucent gemstone, improving the visibility. Secondly, the deposition of nanostructured metals can produce plasmonics effects because of the excitation of surface plasmons, what can also enhance the contrast and, in some cases, add different colors to the engraving.

We develop nano-engravings on the surface of materials using focalized ions (usually Ga+) in the vacuum chamber of the focused ion beam (FIB) instrument. In order to design the nano-engraving, the patterns included in the control software of the FIB instrument can be used. Also, a bitmap image (.bmp) can be introduced in such control software. The spatial resolution of the engraving can be modified by choosing the appropriate ion beam current during the process, and normally lyes in the nanometre scale.

The deposition of metallic layers in the grooves takes place by chemical vapor deposition (CVD) using an injection gas source, and with the same pattern or bitmat image that for the engraving. Normally, the materials that are deposited are W, Pt, C and Au, among others. The metal deposition can also be made directly on the surface of the material, without the previous engraving, but in this case the deposition would have a shorter durability, given than the groove protects the deposition from external mechanical impacts.

We have also fabricated a visor that magnify the nano-engravings to make them visible. The visualisation of these nano-engraving is only visible for the owner of the nano-engraved products and this give them a high degree of distinction, confidenciality, exclusivity and safety.

Advantages

  • Our fabrication method has innovative character because it provides a way of including a nano-engraving with optimized contrast on the surface of different materials, such as gemstones.
  • Engraving the surface of materials using the FIB instrument has the advantage over other engraving methods such as laser-based ones that the spatial resolution is improved, in the nanometer scale.
  • Other advantages include that it is a reliable and fast method of engraving.
  • Depositing a metal layer in the grooves provides the additional advantage of improving the optical visibility.

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