Innovation and Partnerships Office

Metallic Nanocomposite Films for NEMS Applications IB-3027


  • Gas sensing in chemical and petrochemical industry
  • Microelectronics – quantum tunneling diodes, transistor structures, probe pods, crack stops
  • Coatings and thin films
  • Atomic force microscopy


  • Both Al-Mo and Ni-Mo films are reasonably conductive at room temperature, Ni-Mo also magnetic
  • Stress-free and smooth—films can be fabricated to as thin as 5 nm
  • Excellent mechanical properties (hardness, strength, stiffness, etc.)
  • Method uses easily processable materials


Most structural components in nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS) are synthesized from single crystal or polycrystalline silicon, carbide, nitride, or diamond films, with silicon being by far the most widely used. However, silicon has low fracture strength and poor wear characteristics and is poorly suited for electrically conductive and magnetic sensing applications. Metallic films can provide better ductility and higher electrical conductivity but generally suffer from low strength and low stiffness. Pure aluminum, in particular, also has large surface roughness, precluding its usage in most NEMS applications.

To address these problems, researchers at the University of Alberta and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have jointly fabricated nanocomposite films with significantly improved strength and surface smoothness. These aluminum-molybdenum (Al-Mo) and nickel-molybdenum (Ni-Mo) films are electrically conductive, and in the case of Ni-Mo, also magnetic, at room temperature. The low roughness also enables these films to be made as thin as 5 nm. Because of these films’ unique microstructure, the NEMS cantilevers fabricated from these films are stress-free and not subject to warping.

STATUS: Issued U. S. Patent # 8,458,811 available at Available for license.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:University of Alberta Licensing Opportunity


The Campanile Tip for Optimized Nanoscale Imaging, IB-3314

REFERENCE NUMBER: Berkeley Lab IB-3027; Unversity of Alberta 2006-085