3D material characterization at near atomic level, as pursued with atom probe tomography (APT), is nowadays indispensable and has already led to major progress in various fields of applications. Over the last decades, 3D compositional mapping by APT has led for example to remarkable insights into the growth and doping mechanisms of nanostructures , to compelling evidence for the atomic level connection between bone tissue and implants , to the explanation of functional properties in high-performance thermoelectric materials  and so forth. Albeit researchers across the world apply APT to versatile material systems and research problems, many hurdles remain. Progress is mainly achieved by technical advancements on the hardware and software side, as well as through ad hoc engineering solutions. We lack a comprehensive picture of the physical processes that underpin this technique, and theoretical models and assumptions made might no longer hold for the newer generation instruments and the complex material systems studied nowadays with APT. As a result, experimental success rates, reliability, spatial and quantification accuracy remain a bottleneck, and do not achieve the levels required for industrial applications of this technique (e.g. semiconductor processing).
In this PhD project, the successful candidate will obtain a better understanding of the underlying physical mechanisms in APT of novel materials and devices, with focus on semiconductor applications. In detail, she/he shall investigate the role of experimental and instrumental factors, how to translate them into (measurable) physical quantities and study their effect on the final data collected. Inevitably, this will require a deeper understanding of existing and, if needed, the development of new data processing schemes. To study these aspects, the candidate can rely on a broad set of material systems ranging from simple, homogeneous test materials, over nanostructures up to complex, real-life semiconductor devices for logic, interconnect or opto-electronic applications including exploratory devices for example for quantum computing applications. An excessive, state-of-the-art instrumentation park (LEAP5000, Helios Nanolab G3 CX) and access to data analysis (IVAS) and simulation/physical modelling software (COMSOL) will give sufficient support to solve this problem. The work is in close collaboration with imec, a leading semiconductor research centre, and the KU Leuven, and is embedded in our APT research program, led by Prof. André Vantomme and Prof. Claudia Fleischmann.
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