Advanced Electronics and Photonics is able to assist with thin film processing, thin film characterization, device assembly and characterization, photolithography, etching, and flexible electronics. AEP is capable of processing 2” wafers all the way up to a Gen II display glass-sized panel measuring 370mm by 470mm.

Popular applications of our capabilities include microelectronic device prototyping, wafer coating or cleaning, solar cell and diode optimization and pilot scale product demonstration. AEP is equipped with the tools and expertise to help take your electronic device from prototype fabrication to final packaging.

What is a thin film?

A thin film is a microscopically thin layer of material that is deposited onto a metal, ceramic, semiconductor, or plastic base (substrate). Typically less than one micron thick, thin films can be conductive, semi-conductive, or dielectric (non-conductive) and are used in myriad applications.

What are thin films used for?

Thin films are generally used to improve the surface properties of solids. Transmission, reflection, absorption, hardness, abrasion resistance, corrosion, permeation and electrical behavior are only some of the properties of a bulk material surface that can be improved by using a thin film. Thin films are used in wide variety of electronics applications such as circuit boards for computers, photovoltaic (solar) cells and LEDs.

How are thin films made?

Thin films are applied to a substrate through a process called deposition. There are two broad categories of thin film deposition:

  • Chemical deposition uses a chemical reaction to produce the thin film on the substrate. Techniques include:
    • Low pressure chemical vapor deposition.
    • Plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition.
    • Electrodeposition or electroplating.
    • Epitaxy.
    • Thermal oxidation.
  • Physical deposition uses mechanical, electromechanical or thermodynamic processes to produce the thin film. Techniques include:
    • Evaporation.
    • Sputtering.
    • Casting.

The Advanced Electronics and Photonics facility offers the following deposition tools:

What are thin film characterization methods?

Measurement and testing of thin films are essential to ensure that the coatings satisfy the specified technological requirements. Thin film characterization techniques analyze qualities such as thickness, composition, stress state, adhesion, optical properties, electrical conductivity and more. These techniques include ellipsometry, reflectometry, profilometry, infrared spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction, scanning electron microscopy and more.

What is ellipsometry?

An ellipsometer is used to characterize the composition, roughness, thickness, crystalline nature, doping concentration, electrical conductivity and other properties of thin films. Ellipsometry is an optical technique that measures a change in polarization as light reflects or transmits from the material being studied.

AEP specializes in thin film characterization techniques such as profile step height, film thickness measurements, film optical properties, FTIR, film stress, roughness, resistivity and crystallinity, contact angle, defect analysis, and FESEM.

We offer the following thin film characterization tools:

What is photolithography?

Photolithography, also known as optical lithography or UV lithography, is the standard method used to create printed circuit boards and microprocessors. Photolithography uses light to transfer a pattern from a photomask onto a light-sensitive chemical photoresist on the substrate. After the pattern has been transferred, the circuit can be created by etching away the background around the pattern, or through deposition of new material on top of the pattern.

AEP offers the following equipment which can be used for photolithography:

What is etching?

Etching is a process for removing layers of thin film or substrate around a masked pattern.

AEP is equipped to perform acid and base etching, reaction ion etching, downstream plasma etching and more with the following etching tools:

What are flexible electronics?

Flexible electronics are electronic circuits (flex circuits) or displays mounted on flexible substrates. Flexible electronics offer the possibility of electronics that can be folded, rolled up, embedded in clothing or even implanted in the body. They are typically also lightweight and resistant to breaking.

AEP offers the following flexible electronics processing capabilities:

  • Most AEP core equipment is designed for processing flexible electronics. Exceptions include the high temperature furnace and RTP. All other equipment is operated at a low enough temperature to be compatible with most flexible electronic applications. Please direct inquiries to Dr. Michael Marrs, Core Director,