Graphene Flagship Launches First European Experimental Pilot Line


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The Graphene Flagship, upon the invitation of the European Commission, is creating an experimental pilot line for graphene-based electronics, optoelectronics and sensors – a first-of-its-kind experimental manufacturing facility, where European companies, research centres and academic institutions, can produce novel devices based on two-dimensional (2D) materials on a pilot scale. The online kickoff meeting was scheduled for Oct. 8.

The goal of this ambitious undertaking is to demonstrate how to manufacture and scale up the production of devices based on 2D materials for market applications. This is a crucial step before graphene technologies can be transferred to full scale manufacturing.

The Graphene Flagship has proposed a consortium consisting of key European players covering the whole value chain, including tool manufacturers, chemical and material providers and semiconductor fabrication lines: Aixtron and Oxford Instruments (UK), imec (Belgium), AMO, iHP, Micro Resist Technology, Aixtron and Suss Microtech (Germany), Graphenea (Spain) and VTT (Finland).

"For many applications, the wafer scale integration of graphene and potentially other 2D materials is required for products to appear on the market," says Lilei Ye, Business Developer for Electronics Applications at the Graphene Flagship. "The 2D Experimental Pilot Line (2D-EPL) will accelerate the manufacture of new prototypes for electronics, photonics and optoelectronics with integrated graphene and layered materials."

"Two-dimensional materials have unique properties for electronic and photonic devices, as well as for sensors," says Cedric Huyghebaert, technical leader of the 2D-EPL project and programme manager for exploratory material and module integration at imec. "There are now plenty of prototypes of devices based on 2D materials that out-perform current technologies. To bring these devices into the market we need to develop tool kits and design manuals to allow manufacturing compatible with semiconductor industry standards."

"The 2D-EPL really highlights how the European Commission, through projects like the Graphene Flagship, can make an impact in European research, development and industry," says Graphene Flagship Director Jari Kinaret. "We identified a challenge – upscaling the production of graphene electronics – and the European Commission heard us, finding funding to address this challenge."

The 2D-EPL will enable the prototyping of new devices for electronic, photonic and sensor applications in a manufacturing-representative environment. The timeline is ambitious: The pilot-line workflows and protocols should be fully functioning by 2024. The process flow will be validated in state-of-the-art cleanroom environments all around Europe, at AMO, iHP, imec and VTT.

To help establish a European ecosystem for 2D materials covering the entire value chain, the 2D-EPL will be open to the whole community, exploiting a shared-costs model between users and service providers. The objective is to become a sustainable, on-demand service for researchers and innovators in Europe and beyond, integrated into the EUROPRACTICE framework.

The 2D-EPL project can count on the expertise of the Graphene Flagship team at Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden) for the administrative, business development and dissemination support. The technical and scientific management is led by imec and supported by a core technical steering-group consisting of principle investigators from the integration sites of the pilot line. Furthermore, the project is guided by an Industrial Advisory Board, which comprises key players from the European semiconductor industry, such as X-FAB, Infineon and Emberion. The Board will be kept informed about the progress and the solutions developed by the 2D-EPL project and will also provide feedback on industry requirements and specifications, market analyses and early opportunities for the project.

The Pilot Line builds on the existing activities of its partners in the Graphene Flagship and it is closely intertwined with the Graphene Core 3 project. However, its activities are complementary to those developed in other parts of the Flagship and involve new players. The focus and organization of the new 2D-EPL project are different from that of the Flagship, and closely related to other existing European pilot lines.

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