The ability to pattern materials at ever-smaller sizes using photolithography is driving advances in nanotechnology. When the feature size of materials is reduced to the nanoscale, individual atoms and molecules can be manipulated to dramatically alter material properties. So far the highest-resolution mask-based photolithography can generate patterns down to around 20 nm. Extreme ultraviolet – a next-generation lithography technology – can deliver even smaller pattern sizes. However, the secondary electron blur from extreme-ultraviolet photons hinders the creation of single molecule patterns.

The EU-funded Nanolace project will demonstrate a breakthrough nanolithography technique: Mask-based atom lithography. Two approaches will be pursued: Solid-state masks and optical masks. If successful the project will be the first to use Bose-einstein condensates for lithograpy and the first to demonstrate single-nanometer resolution mask based lithography, revolutionising the world of micro and quantum electronics.



Lithography refers to the transfer of a pattern onto a substrate. Lithography techniques are used in the production of a huge range of devices and materials ranging from microelectronics and MEMS devices to optical metamaterials and smart surfaces for medical and other applications. The ultimate goal and limit of lithography is to obtain fast and large scale patterning, which enables the controlled positioning of individual molecules or atoms. This requires fast, large scale single nm resolution patterning. At the moment no techniques are available that can do that. Fast positioning of individual molecules or atoms over large areas can pave the way for the creation and industrial application of whole new classes of materials and devices including room temperature quantum electronic devices, electronic metamaterials as well as nano filtration membranes and can push the performance of todays microelectronics.

The highest resolution (~20 nm), fast, large scale lithography technique today is photolithography where a photon beam is projected through a mask, so that the pattern from the mask is replicated by direct imaging on a substrate coated with resist. Next generation Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) lithography uses 92 eV photons and is targeted to deliver 8 nm resolution. The EUV ultimate limit, determined by the secondary electron generation blur, is estimated to be around 6 nm, which does not enable single nm resolution patterning. Further reductions in the photolithography resolution of the patterning would increase the photon energy, exacerbating the secondary blur.
In Nanolace, a radical breakthrough to reach nm resolution lithography will be demonstrated: single nm resolution patterns will be generated with solid state and optical masks, proposed by partners in the consortium using metastable and Bose Einstein condensated atoms. Nanolace will be the first demonstration of lithography with a Bose Einstein condensate.


Field of Science

/natural sciences/physical sciences/electromagnetism and electronics/microelectronics
/natural sciences/physical sciences/theoretical physics/particles/photons



H2020-EU.1.2.1. – FET Open



FETOPEN-01-2018-2019-2020 – FET-Open Challenging Current Thinking


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