A new Taxonomy for Nanofabrication

When analysing the structures and naming conventions of 66 cleanroom nanofabrication facilities located in 15 countries in Europe and the United States, advertising more than 3000 pieces of equipment to be used by both internal and external users under an open-access regime, it soon became clear that the current situation in presenting the offer of nanofabrication research infrastructures is very inconsistent and confusing, and ultimately detrimental to shared, collaborative research and innovation activities.

The research field is historically rooted in microelectronics and electrical engineering. However, nowadays nanofabrication is becoming more and more multidisciplinary: the researchers are coming from different fields, such as physics, chemistry, life sciences, mechanical engineering, bioengineering etc. and every research field has a different view on terminology […].

Led by the Central European Institute of Technology (CEITEEC), the team of experts that conducted the underlying mapping exercise detail their findings in the report entitled ‘Nanofabrication Competence Map: Infrastructures, Knowledge & Skills – Proposal for a new Nanofabrication Taxonomy –; the experts describe, how they tried to identify repeating patterns and propose a universal structure under which the facilities’ offers could be mapped, categorised and shared for the profit of all stakeholders. They found (weak) patterns in the instrument categorisations and found no patterns in naming conventions.

The experts consequently proposed a completely new concept of generic instrument names together with categorisation based on the existing ISO standard ISO/TS 80004-8:2020. The experts note, however, that the ISO standard had to be heavily modified and extended in order to cover all needs of current academic cleanroom nanofabrication centres; they describe their resulting proposal as follows:

The final competence map consists of 5 categories, 21 subcategories and 55 generic instrument names. It covers about 80-90% of nanofabrication tools available in studied nanofabrication facilities, and the map is constructed in a way that other categories can be easily added if needed.

According to the experts, the new nanofabrication taxonomy needed to be flexible, expandable, and robust; they consequently propose a three-level hierarchical system with Main Category -> Subcategory -> Generic instrument name divisions, and note that the generic instrument name was new and so far an unused construct, which should distinguish an instrument from a process.

The newly published report ‘Nanofabrication Competence Map: Infrastructures, Knowledge & Skills – Proposal for a new Nanofabrication Taxonomy –, provides a first proposal of the new taxonomy and hierarchy map, which needs to be reviewed and updated by the community. A strategy on how to disseminate this concept and convince the nanofabrication community about its usefulness will be addressed by the NanoFabNet Hub over the coming months.

Written by: Michal Urbanek (CEITEC) and Steffi Friedrichs (AIST).