SwissLitho AG awards US$10,000 for innovative ideas of young researchers

27 January 2016

In promoting innovative ideas and discovering potential new applications using nanoscale heatable tips (Thermal Scanning Probes), SwissLitho AG, a Zurich based nanotechnology startup, announced the winners of its 1st ever Young Researcher Idea Contest. The goal of this competition was to come up with original ideas for the usage of a nanoscale heatable tip – the key component of the NanoFrazor – SwissLitho’s unique nanofabrication tool.

The winners were chosen out of more than 100 participants from more than 15 countries with proposals from a wide range of nanotechnology fields such as nanophotonics, nanoelectronics, plasmonics, surface analysis and modification, nanomagnetism, biology and many more.

“We were astonished by the diversity and the high quality of most of the submissions,” says Felix Holzner, CEO and co-founder of SwissLitho and initiator of the competition. The selection of the winners was no simple task. A neutral jury consisting of renowned experts – Dieter Kern (retired Professor at the University of Tübingen), Nico de Rooij (retired Professor at EPFL SAMLAB in Neuchâtel) and Peter Vettiger (retired scientist from IBM Research Zurich) selected the winners who were announced last week at the 3rd Thermal Probe Workshop held in Technopark in Zurich. The winners also had a chance to present their ideas at this scientific conference, co-organized annually by SwissLitho and IBM Research Zurich to bring together experts from all over the world in the fields of nanolithography and advanced scanning probe techniques.

First prize winners, Matteo Lorenzoni Galizia and Jordi Llobet from the Institute of Microelectronics in Barcelona took home US$6,000 for their proposal on “Controlled nanometric recrystallization of amorphized and implanted semiconductors”. They could convince the jury with a very clear description on how they would like to use a heated tip in an unconventional way to fabricate nano-scale electronic quantum devices, like switches using just single electrons.

The second prize of US$3,000 went to Simon Hettler from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology for proposing the fabrication of “Three-dimensional phase plates for transmission electron microscopy”. His idea uses the unique 3D capability of the NanoFrazor to create a small beam shaping component for an electron microscope which will enable significantly improved microscopy at the atomic level.

There was also a third prize of US$1,000, awarded to Diederik Balkenende from the Adolphe Merkle Institute in Fribourg and Samuel Zimmermann from EPFL in Lausanne for their idea on “Nano-security features using fluorescent supramolecular glassy materials”. The two PhD students impressed the audience at the award ceremony by demonstrating that their idea actually works. Just one week before the ceremony they fabricated a microscale fluorescent QR-code using the NanoFrazor at EPFL and embedded an additional hidden tiny security feature – a nano-scale logo of the Adolf Merkle Institute- which is not even visible in a normal light microscope.

All the winners have the opportunity to work on the realization of their ideas with the help of SwissLitho scientists. This opportunity is appreciated a lot by the winners who all stand at the beginning of their careers. In addition, the cash prizes also come in handy considering the usually rather low salary of young researchers.

“The ratio between the awarded prize money and the revenue of the young company SwissLitho is probably a world record. I would like to see established companies doing more of such things,” said Peter Vettiger during his speech at the end of the award ceremony.

Find here more information about the competition.