Nanopatterning at the Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication


Monday, 10 May, 2021


Nanopatterning at the Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication

Minister for Education and Youth Alan Tudge last month unveiled the latest addition to the Australian National Fabrication Facility’s (ANFF) portfolio of open-access R&D capabilities: the EULITHA PhableR 100.

The PhableR 100 is a high-throughput nanopatterning system that uses light beams to create tiny, intricate patterns on objects and is capable of processing hundreds of components a day. With a single flash of UV light it can create entire arrays of features that measure just a few hundred nanometres across, or about 1000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. Having the ability to quickly create structures this small is essential when developing advanced medical devices, solar cells, LCD displays, nanoparticles and colour filters.

The half-a-million-dollar tool is being housed at the ANFF’s flagship facility, the Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication (MCN) — a purpose-built, open-access cleanroom that is the result of a collaboration between the La Trobe University, CSIRO, the University of Melbourne, Deakin University, Swinburne University of Technology, Victoria University, RMIT University and Monash University, where it is hosted.

The device was brought to Australia by NanoMSlide, a company started by La Trobe University researchers, in order to support Professor Brian Abbey as he and his colleagues begin scaling up their smart microscope slides that can be used to more accurately diagnose cancer. By applying Prof Abbey’s nanopatterned coating to a conventional microscope slide, it enhances the difference between healthy and cancerous cells when looking at a sample through a microscope — something that before now would have involved extensive pre-processing of samples.

“We will use the new PhableR facility to produce our patented slide coating which transforms conventional microscope slides into a powerful new tool for understanding disease,” Prof Abbey said. “The resulting high-contrast images, which are generated instantly, will enable faster, more accurate cancer diagnosis compared to current approaches which rely on staining or labelling.

“Until now, we’ve had to rely on overseas facilities for key elements in the production process. With the new facility, we’re now able to manufacture our slides right here in Melbourne — and in quantities that will allow us to realise the full potential of our invention.”

While the team behind these novel slides will be the primary beneficiary of the new tool, the PhableR is part of the ANFF network of micro and nanofabrication capabilities, and is therefore available for use by industry and academia to enable production of nanoscale devices, and to allow developing companies to establish a foothold in their relevant markets.

As noted by Professor Nico Voelcker, MCN and ANFF-VIC Director, “This will allow [our] extensive academic and industry client base to scale up fabrication of devices in their translational path. And we do this in a collaborative, ISO 9001, IP neutral and customer service-focused environment.

“We’re certain that many of the MCN’s 50+ industry partners will directly benefit from the ability to access this new nanopatterning capability, and that it improves the chances of success for our many clients that are working towards products of the future.”

Image caption: The technology at the heart of NanoMSlide: a contrast-enhancing nanopattern that helps pathologists to identify cancerous cells. Image credit: NanoMSlide.

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