Saturday 11 February 2017

CU Boulder Today, ALD NanoSolutions, VPHA

CU Boulder Today published on Feb 7, 2017 a nice article describing the history of the company ALD NanoSolutions, a spin-off from the University of Colorado Boulder. ALD NanoSolutions is specialized in atomic layer deposition (ALD) for the coating of particles. Link to article:

Some quotes from the CU Boulder Today article:
  • In 1997, Professor Alan Weimer of chemical and biological engineering heard a campus talk by Professor Steven George of chemistry about a novel process of coating surfaces with the thinnest of materials possible, known as atomic layer deposition (ALD).
  • Within a few years Weimer and George had filed a number of patents on the technology, gaining exclusive rights to a wide range of intellectual property.
  • “This company has executed with focus and pragmatism since we formed it, and now we are moving into high gear commercially,” says Weimer. “And we have what I call a lot of high-end ethics within the company, which is very important to all of us. That is one reason we are all still together after all these years.”
My first recollection of ALD NanoSolutions is from early 2000s, from the time I was a doctoral student at Helsinki University of Technology - nowadays Aalto University - in the Industrial Chemistry group of Prof. Outi Krause during 1999 to 2002. My research concerned particle ALD for catalyst applications. I started in 1998 as a diploma worker at Microchemistry Ltd. (nowadays part of ASM) in a research line which had been started many years earlier in Finland by Tuomo Suntola at Microchemistry Ltd. and the Finnish oil company Neste Oy (for more info, see the "Suntola story" in CVD 2014, details below). At HUT, we were of course curious of this new company: who is behind it, what is the technology, how will it commercialize ALD? 

Photo of Riikka after visiting ALD NanoSolutions March 18, 2014. (I cannot recall who took the photograph upon my request.  I will be to happy to add the name of the photographer here if the person who remembers to have taken the photo, will contact me.) 

Fast forward more than a decade. In 2014, I had a chance to travel to Boulder and visit Prof. Steven George and his group. At this moment, I worked as a Senior Scientist at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

I gave a talk in the Materials & Nanosciences seminar series called "Recent advances in Atomic Layer Deposition for Microelectromechanical Systems” on March 17, 2014. In my presentation, I shared also information of the Virtual Project on the History of ALD (VPHA) and invited the local researchers to join this international volunteer-based effort carried out in atmosphere of openness, respect, and trust. I was happy to meet also Prof. Weimer and visit ALD NanoSolutions while in Boulder. I was impressed by the multitude and variability of the self-built ALD systems in the university labs. In Finland, I have not seen any self-built systems as everyone uses company-made set-ups; this is because of the strong roots of ALD equipment development in Finland. At ALD NanoSolutions, the professional-looking particle coating reactors using e.g. fluidization and rotary bed caught my attention. In my own research work, I had used a fixed-bed reactor.

Just a few months before the Boulder visit, I had the chance of visiting St. Petersburg, which has several groups using ALD. Two of these groups are historical and active with ALD since 1960s and 1970s; both have been founded by Prof Valentin Aleskovskii, a Russian core pioneer of ALD together with Prof. Koltsov. I got invited to St. Petersburg to speak at the Beneq AppLab opening seminar at Saint Petersburg Electrotechnical University "LETI" (ETU) (thank you to Mikko Kaarela for inviting me!). I gave two talks, one on the history of ALD and one on international collaborations regarding ALD. In the latter, I for example invited the local researchers to Baltic ALD, May 2014 in Helsinki organized by the Finnish Centre of Excellence in ALD; fortunately, many came, including Prof. Malygin and Prof. Drozd. I believe I also mentioned the then-ongoing plans of setting up the HERALD COST network on ALD, see In my ALD history presentation, I described the then-current status of understanding the history of ALD and the many questions we in VPHA had regarding the early works on ALD in Russia, and invited the local researchers to join the VPHA activities. My ALD history presentation can be viewed in SlideShare: In St. Petersburg, all ALD reactors are self-built, similarly as in Boulder. As for particle ALD reactors, I saw in Prof. Malygin's lab at the Saint Petersburg State Institute of Technology both fixed-bed and fluidized bed versions.  

Since my visits in St. Petersburg in 2013 and Boulder in 2014, significant steps ahead have been taken in VPHA collaboration regarding the understanding of the history of ALD and the two independent discoveries of it under the names Atomic Layer Epitaxy in Finland in 1974 and Molecular Layering in Russia in the 1960s. My invited tutorial at ALD 2014 in Kyoto summarized the understanding which I had at that time, for the first time showing the two independent inventions side by side in the conclusion slide (slide no. 32). The presentation can be viewed in SlideShare: Essays were published of ALE and ML, and most recently, a focused review article co-authored by 62 scientists (open access) gave a short recommended reading list of significant early publications on ALD. 

The work in VPHA is not quite completed yet. I invite again researchers from Boulder and elsewhere to contribute to VPHA, to find out about the early days of ALD in an international volunteer-based collaboration an atmosphere of openness, respect, and trust. While a significant part of the early works on ALD have been made on particles, so far the interest of most of VPHA participants has been related to ALD on planar substrates (there are exceptions, of course). It would be beneficial for the scientific ALD community if we could have more participants going through the early works on particles, too. 

The core of VPHA is to collect "comments" by volunteers together in the Google docs based ALD-history-evolving-file, which can be viewed and commented upon in real time by everyone in the world. The website works as a collaboration centre for VPHA, and this ALD History Blog is used for efficient communication. Sometimes, emails are sent out, too; to join the email list, please contact info@ (delete the space).

Scientific articles published within VPHA:

  • Review article: “Recommended reading list of early publications on atomic layer deposition—Outcome of the “Virtual Project on the History of ALD””, Esko Ahvenniemi, Andrew R. Akbashev, Saima Ali, Mikhael Bechelany, Maria Berdova, Stefan Boyadjiev, David C. Cameron, Rong Chen, Mikhail Chubarov, Veronique Cremers, Anjana Devi, Viktor Drozd, Liliya Elnikova, Gloria Gottardi, Kestutis Grigoras, Dennis M. Hausmann, Cheol Seong Hwang, Shih-Hui Jen, Tanja Kallio, Jaana Kanervo, Ivan Khmelnitskiy, Do Han Kim, Lev Klibanov, Yury Koshtyal, A. Outi I. Krause, Jakob Kuhs, Irina Kärkkänen, Marja-Leena Kääriäinen, Tommi Kääriäinen, Luca Lamagna, Adam A. Łapicki, Markku Leskelä, Harri Lipsanen, Jussi Lyytinen, Anatoly Malkov, Anatoly Malygin, Abdelkader Mennad, Christian Militzer, Jyrki Molarius, Małgorzata Norek, Çağla Özgit-Akgün, Mikhail Panov, Henrik Pedersen, Fabien Piallat, Georgi Popov, Riikka L. Puurunen, Geert Rampelberg, Robin H. A. Ras, Erwan Rauwel, Fred Roozeboom, Timo Sajavaara, Hossein Salami, Hele Savin, Nathanaelle Schneider, Thomas E. Seidel, Jonas Sundqvist, Dmitry B. Suyatin, Tobias Törndahl, J. Ruud van Ommen, Claudia Wiemer, Oili M. E. Ylivaara, Oksana Yurkevich, Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology A 35 (2017) 010801 (13 pages). Open access.
  • Essay by A. A. Malygin, V. E. Drozd, A. A. Malkov, V. M. Smirnov, "From V. B. Aleskovskii’s "Framework" Hypothesis to the Method of Molecular Layering/Atomic Layer Deposition", Chemical Vapor Deposition 21 (2015) 216-240. doi: 10.1002/cvde.201502013
  • Essay by R. L. Puurunen, "A short history of Atomic Layer Deposition: Tuomo Suntola's Atomic Layer Epitaxy", Chemical Vapor Deposition 20 (2014) 332-344, doi: 10.1002/cvde.201402012. Open Access. Full essay.

Presentations mentioned:

Internet links (all added after initial publication of the blog post):

Guest post in ALD History Blog by Prof Alan Weimer, March 13, 2017 

Other updates after original publication:

  • Reference to VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland added as of Feb 11, 2017.

P.S.: Sorry for the odd-looking, inconsistent fonts. I write with Blogger. Obviously, the environment has hidden commands for the outlook, of which I have not control. It is not a "WYSIWYG" environment. I blog with the philosophy that it is the contents that matter and not how good the fonts looks like. For me, simplicity matters, and as thanks to Blogger I can say that it is really easy to set up and use, if one doesn't mind the little-less-polished outlook.

Virtual Project on the History of ALD (VPHA) - in atmosphere of Openness, Respect, and Trust

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