Bespoke MBraun ten-glovebox facility including: PLD, ALD, sputtering, organic and hybrid (organic/inorganic) vacuum thermal evaporation, aerosol printing, screen printing, slot-die coating, blade coating, metrology, encapsulation, substrate preparation

Ambient Cluster Processing & Research Facility

Custom-built glovebox cluster tool for developing new battery materials, enhancing solar cells and LEDs, and developing new sensors and devices.

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Detailed Description

The ambient processing cluster tool is a custom-built glovebox cluster tool that integrates different vacuum as well as liquid-based deposition technologies for a wide range of functional materials into a common inert glove box atmosphere. It comprises ten glove box modules that are interconnected by a semi-automated inert atmosphere transfer system and includes tools such as thermal vacuum evaporation, sputtering, pulsed laser deposition (PLD) and atomic layer deposition (ALD) as well as aerosol printing, screen printing and slot-die coating. The tool also includes modules for metrology, thin film encapsulation and packaging. The tool gives access to a wide range of functional materials, including transition metal oxides for battery and other applications, organic and hybrid organic-inorganic semiconductors, two-dimensional materials, polymer composites etc.

Its unique configuration allows integration of these different classes of materials into novel hetero-architectures and but also fabrication of a wide range of devices including solar cells, batteries, mechanical or thermoelectric energy harvesters as well as integrated energy systems for energy–efficient ICT applications.

For further information on the Ambient Cluster Processing & Research Facility please also see the dedicated webpage at:


Examples of research papers from work done using the Ambient Cluster tool include: “Effects of processing-induced contamination on organic electronic devices” (Simatos in press);
“High-Performance Humidity Sensing in π-conjugated Molecular Assemblies through the Engineering of Electron/Proton Transport and Device Interfaces” (Gicevičius et al. 2022);
“3D printed hierarchical pillar array electrodes for high performance semiartificial photosynthesis” (Chen 2022)
“Multisource Vacuum Deposition of Methylammonium-Free Perovskite Solar Cells” (Miguel et al. 2020)

M1 – Organic Module: Vacuum Thermal Evaporator and Spin Coater

The vacuum thermal evaporator (Creaphys) allows for (co-)evaporation of up to 4 organic molecular compounds and inorganic compounds (e.g. MoOx) up to 800°C and supports metals (e.g. Au, Al, Ag) up to 1800°C . The spin-coater (Mbraun) has a maximum spin speed of 10,000 rpm and supports substrate size of up to 100 x 100mm.

M2 – Hybrid Module: Vacuum Thermal Evaporator, Spin Coater and Hotplate

The hybrid module is designed to produce combinations of organic semiconductors, polymer nanocomposites and hybrid organic inorganic semiconductors, such as metal halide perovskites. It can handle precursors such as MAI (Methylammonium iodide), PbCl2 and PbI2 for perovskite solar cells. The vacuum thermal evaporator (Creaphys) allows for (co-evaporation of up to 4 compounds at both low and high temperatures. Metals can be heated at up to 1800°C. The spin-coater (Mbraun) has a maximum spin speed of 10,000 rpm and a supports a substrate size of up to 100 x 100mm.

M3 – Battery Module: PLD, Evaporator and DC/RF Sputterer

This module supports sputtering, pulsed laser deposition and vacuum thermal evaporation of battery chemistries. This includes electrodes and solid electrolytes. The sputterer has two RF targets and two DC targets allowing metals and metal oxides to be deposited to form, for example, lithium ion batteries and supercapacitors. The module consists of: the Pulsed Laser Deposition system (PLD) (Surface Tech GmBH) which has a single and twin beam configuration to allow co-deposition and stoichiometric tuning, the DC/RF sputterer (Surface Tech GmBH) that can be run in a variety of gas ambients to influence stoichiometry and the vacuum thermal evaporator used principally for Lithium. The thermal evaporator can produce a thermal ramp of substrates up to 20 °C/min to 500 °C and 10 °C/min from 500 to 1000 °C. The PLD has six locations for 1 inch diameter, 6mm-thick targets. The system can achieve up to 4 J/cm2 laser fluence with 20 nm pulses, 28 MW power per pulse, maximum power of 700 mJ, and pulse repetition rates of up to 10 Hz.

M4 – Printing Module: Aerosol Printer, Slot Die and Blade Coater

The Aerosol printer (Optomec) allows a wide range of materials, including silver, to be deposited in fine and complex patterns down to 11 μm resolution using a suitable ink precursor in droplets ranging from 1 to 5 µm in diameter. Device structures including small contact pads can be created and aligned to previous layers.

The Slot-Die Coater (Ntact) allows pin-hole free films to be deposited, for example the deposition of encapsulating materials to seal solar cell devices from moisture and air and also thin polymer dielectrics.

The blade coater is a small unit for the formation, by coating, of test structures and devices.

M5 – Coating Module (1): High Resolution Screen Printer

The high-resolution screen printer (Coruna) allows for high precision patterning of pin-hole free patterns and includes multiple-print processes, stacking, wet-dry, dry-wet and limited micro gap printing. Resolution of 40um is achieveable. Many different base substrates can be printed on, including ceramics, silicon wafers, foils and paper. The maximum substrate size is W(X) x L(Y) x H(Z): 200x200x12mm; with the maximum print size being: 180x180mm. The maximum table movement (X/Y) is 100mm with an (X/Y) sensitivity of 1µm. Layer to layer registration between layers is enabled with an alignment camera.

M6 – Testing Module: Dektak Profileometer and Integrating Sphere/LEB Electro-Optical Characteriseation

The Dektak profilometer (Bruker) can measure the height of features from < 50 nm to 150 μm on substrates up to 6-inch wafer size. Surface roughness can be measured to sub-nm levels, supporting the characterisation of film morphologies.

M7 – Packaging and Encapsulation Module – Automated Glue Dispenser and UV Curing Press

The Mbraun encapsulator is designed for substrates of 1.00 x 1.00-inch in size. An automated X/Y UV curable glue dispenser is used to pattern a perimeter seal on the coverslip that is then pressed by ambient pressure or mechanical pressure during UV exposure to cure the glue. Flood coating is also possible.

M8 – Coating Module (1): Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD)

The Atomic Layer Deposition (Picosun) carries precursors for TiO2, Al2O3, Ga2O3, HfO, and SnO2, and gives a uniformity of 0.6% single sigma across 8 inch wafer with Al2O3. It can operate at substrate temperatures up to ~ 400°C, and for temperature sensitive substrates has been proven down to 75°C for Al2O3 and 100°C for SnO2.

M9 – Substrate Module: Plasma Asher and Vacuum Oven

The Plasma Asher (Diener Nano) has a maximum power of 300 W with O2 as standard and the option of Ar or N2.

The Vacuum Oven (Diener Nano) has a capacity of 8×8-inch and heats up to 200degC. Static vacuum ca n be employed or partial vacuum with adjustable N2 bleed gas.

M10 – Battery Fabrication Station

A high temperature furnace (up to 1400°C) is used for sintering of materials and a crimping press for the sealing and unsealing of coin cell batteries. A microbalance is used to weigh out constituent materials.