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The ambient processing cluster tool is a custom-built glovebox cluster tool that integrates different vacuum as well as liquid-based deposition technologies for a wide range of functional materials into a common inert glove box atmosphere. It comprises ten glove box modules that are interconnected by a semi-automated inert atmosphere transfer system and includes tools such as thermal evaporation, sputtering, pulsed laser deposition (PLD) and atomic layer deposition (ALD) as well as aerosol printing, screen printing and slot-die coating. The tool also includes modules for metrology, thin film encapsulation and packaging. The tool gives access to a wide range of functional materials, including transition metal oxides for battery and other applications, organic and hybrid organic-inorganic semiconductors, two-dimensional materials, polymer composites etc.

Its unique configuration allows integration of these different classes of materials into novel hetero-architectures and but also fabrication of a wide range of devices including solar cells, batteries, mechanical or thermoelectric energy harvesters as well as integrated energy systems for energy–efficient ICT applications.

If your research interests require controlled deposition of any of the above materials or you would like to combine functional materials in novel ways and have any questions on the tool’s capabilities please contact the academic lead Professor Henning Sirringhaus ( ) or the technical lead Mr Steve Haws ( ) in the Department of Physics.

There are currently ten glovebox modules that comprise the following (click to view):


M1 - Organic Module: Vacuum Thermal Evaporator and Spin Coater

This module is designed to produce organic semiconducting devices such as organic LEDs, organic solar cells, OFETs and thermoelectrics. New device structures often require the combination of different preparation methods. The deposition of the required thin film can be realised by solution-based processes, or via physical vapour deposition under vacuum conditions.

The system is split into two sections, one section is dedicated to solution processing, the second is for vacuum deposition of organic and metal layers. The evaporator allows (co-)evaporation of organic molecular compounds, inorganic compounds (e.g. MoOx, LiF) and/or metals (e.g. Au, Al, Ag). While metals and inorganic compounds can be simply evaporated using thermal sources (boat-type or effusion cells) under high vacuum conditions, organic compounds must be evaporated with special care. Precise temperature control over a wide temperature range is combined with a special source design to allow deposition of organics.

The spin-coater may be programmed to modify recipes of multiple steps, and may operate over a wide parameter range (speed, acceleration, deceleration etc. may be carefully controlled). Complex devices where various solvents were used in deposition will benefit from a regenerable solvent vapour removal system integrated in the glove box purification system, to ensure a contamination-free environment.

Organic Vacuum Thermal Evaporator Specifications:

Two High Temperature Metal Sources: up to 1800°C
Four Lower Temperature (ceramic pot) Sources: up to 800°C
Substrate size: up to 99mm x 99mm
Custom Inlays: allow for matrix of smaller sizes within maxium
In-situ mask changing: to enable layered structures with shadow masking under vacuum
High Vacuum Side Pressure: ultimately  down to 1E-8 mbar
Rate Sensor Heads (QCM): 4 independant
Substrate Temperature: up to 300degC
Temperature Control of the Crucible: precision of < ±0.1 K
Co-Depositions: up to 4 for complex stochiometrics
Substrate Rotation: 0 to 30 rpm

Spin Coater Specifications:

Max Spin Speed: 10,000 rpm
Substrate Size: up to 100 x 100mm


M2 - Hybrid Module: Vacuum Thermal Evaporator, Spin Coater and Hotplate

Designed to handle and deposit potentially hazardous materials like (e. g. Methylammonium halides, Lead Iodine, Lead Bromine, Caesium Iodine, etc.)

The hybrid module is designed to produce combinations of organic semiconductors, polymer nanocomposites and hybrid organicinorganic semiconductors, such as metal halide perovskites. And can handle precursors such as MAI (Methylammonium iodide), PbCl2 and PbI2 for perovskite solar cells. The system is split into two sections. One section is dedicated to solution processing, the second is for vacuum deposition of layers in a special PVD system. The evaporator enables deposition of perovskite solar cells and organic/inorganic FETs. The spin-coater may produce films from a solvent based source, and the hotplate is used to drive off the solvent fraction from a coated film.

Hybrid Evaporator Specifications:

(1 off) ULTE: Ultra Low Temperature sources: -10 to 250degC +/- 0.1K
(3 off) LT: Low Temperature ceramic sources: 50degC to 800degC +/- 0.1K
Typical deposition rates: up to 5 Å/sec at throw distance 150 mm
(2 off) Metal boat sources: up to 1800degC
Al Evaporation: Custom ceramic pot configuration for Al evaporation
Typical deposition rates for Aluminium: Up to 20 Å/sec at throw distance 250 mm
Substrate size: up to 100x100mm with frames allowing for partitioning, eg into 3x3x matrix of 1x1inch
Substrate temperature: Heating / cooling from room temperature to 300°C
High vacuum side pressure: ultimately  down to 1E-8 mbar
Control: Sophisticated computer process control. Remote operation via Teamviewer

Hybrid Spincoater and Hotplate Specifications:

Substrate size: up to 100 x 100mm
Spin speed: up to 10,000 rpm
Hotplate temperature: controllable up to 200°C


M3 Battery Module: PLD, Evaporator, and DC/RF Sputterer

This module supports deposition of sputtering of battery electrodes and solid electrolytes. With multi-source target arrays, metals and metal oxides can be deposited to form, for example, lithium ion batteries and supercapacitors. It can quickly achieve base pressure of 5 x 10-7 mbar and enables deposition of relatively thick films of transition metal oxides for cathodes and solid-state electrolytes. The module is run under an argon atmosphere.

The module consists of: the Pulsed Laser Deposition system (PLD) that has a single and twin beam configuration to allow co-deposition and stoichiometric tuning; and the DC/RF sputterer that can be run in a variety of gas ambients to influence stoichiometry of the deposited material. Typical material depositions include metals and transition metal oxides

The systmes can produce a thermal ramp of substrates up to 20 °C/min to 500 °C and 10 °C/min from 500 to 1000 °C, and has six locations for 1 inch diameter, 6mm-thick targets. The system can achieve up to 4 J/cm2 laser fluence with 20 nm pulses, 28 MW power per pulse, maximum power of 700 mJ, and pulse repetition rates of up to 10 Hz. Process recipes can be programmed to allow automated running of processes. The evaporator can accommodate a wide range of materials due to a PID-controlled source temperature up to 1200 °C, and has an integral link to the sputterer to enable sequential operations without breaking vacuum. The sputterer is for deposition of metals and transition metal oxides for battery construction, with two DC and RF sputter target positions.

Pulsed Laser Deposition Specifications:

Configuration: Single and Twin Beam
Fluence: Up to 4J/cm2
Pulse Time: 20ns
Pulse Power: up to 28 MW
Maximum Energy: 700mJ
Pulse repetition: up to 10 Hz
Substrate Size: Maximum 10 x 10mm
Substrate Temperature: Up to 1,000 oC
Temperature Ramp Rate: up to 20 oC/min to 500 oC, then 10 oC/min to 1,000 oC
No. of Target Locations: 6
Target thickness: 6mm
Automation: Programmable for automated running
Availible Gases: Ar and O2


Sputterer Specifications:

Substrate size: Single substrate @ maximum 10 x10 mm
Power: Up to 30W
Targets: 2 DC and 2 RF, 1.3 inch diameter
Available Gases: O2, N2 and Ar


Sputterer Specifications:

Substrate size: Single @ maximum 10 x10 mm
Temperature: up to 1,000 oC
Source: single source, graphite pot


M4 - Printing Module: Aerosol Printer, Slot Die and Blade Coater

Aerosol printing allows a wide range of materials, including silver, to be deposited in fine and complex patterns down to 11 μm resolution using a suitable ink precursor. Device structures including small contact pads can be created and aligned to previous layers.

The slot-die coater allows pin-hole free films to be deposited, for example the deposition of encapsulating materials to seal solar cell devices from moisture and air and also thin polymer dielectrics. Compatible materials include a wide variety of inks, pastes, or metals, conductors, insulators, ferrites, and polymers.

The blade coater is a small unit for the formation, by coating, of test structures and devices.

Aerosol Printer Printer Specifications:

Resolution: down to 11µm
Motorised (X/Y) Platten size: 6x6 inch
Ultrasonic for: 1 to 10 cP
Pneumatic for: 1 to 1000 cP
Work to date includes: silver ink, transition metal oxides and nanoscale ITO
Droplets size: Rranging from 1 to 5 µm in diameter

Slot-Die Coater Specifications:

Deposited Thickness: Thin 100nm eg dielectric layers up to thick, – 10 microns for eg encapsulation with polyimide
Vacuum Platen Size: Supports device substrates of up to 8x12 inch (with smallest 200mm x 3mm prime plate)
Platen Heating: to 80 °C
Nozzle (die lips): height adjustable to resolution of 1um

Blade Coater Specifications:

Maximum trace width: 3cm
Maximum trace length: 5cm


M5 - Coating Module: High Resolution Screen Printer

This affords high resolution and high precision patterning of pin-hole free patterns to support the definition of device structures on a range of substrates, including glass and plastic film. This includes multiple-print processes, stacking, wet-dry, dry-wet and limited micro gap printing. Many different base substrates can be printed on, including ceramics, silicon wafers, foils and paper. 

High Resolution Screen Printer Specifications:

Max. Substrate Size W(X) x L(Y) x H(Z): 200x200x12mm Max.
Print Size (Image size): 180x180mm Max.
Table Movement (X/Y): 100mm
Table Sensitivity (X/Y): 1µm
Table Repeatability: +/-2µm
Layer to Layer Alignment: < +/- 10µm
Max. Table Rotation: (A) +/- 5° (Fine) / 360° (Rough), Sensitivity (A) 20 arcsec
Max. Print Length (Left/Right): 305mm
Max. Print Width: 180mm
Squeegee variations: Squeegee/Sqeegee, Sqeegee/Flood Squeegee
Sqeegee Movement: Manually
Sqeegee Guiding:  Twin Guiding, Level adjustable
Squeegee Down/Up: Manually by handle
Camera System MicroscopW: Camera 50-500x (2000x Digital)
Camera Resolution: 5MP
Monitor LCD: , 2 Pieces 3.5“ (89mm)
Ilumination: Incident LED Light


M6 - Testing module: Dektak Profileometer and Integrating Sphere/LED Electro-Optical Characterisation

The profilometer can measure the height of features from around 50 nm to 150 μm. Surface roughness can be measured to sub-nm levels, supporting the characterisation of film morphologies. Whether measuring thicknesses to obtain critical values for device simulation or for process control, such measurements are vital for the range of deposition techniques used in battery, solar cell, TFT and OLED architectures.

Dektak Specifications:

Height resolution: Less than 10nm
Repeatability: down to 4A
Substrates size: up to around 6 inch wafer size
Operating Modes: Low force for sensitive materials


M7 - Packaging and Encapsulation module – Automated Glue Dispenser and UV Curing Press

This allows a range of UV-curable types of sealant beading to be precision-deposited for subsequent UV curing in the press. This module supports effective encapsulation, vital for many solar cell architectures.

Encapsulation Specifications:

Substrate Size: 1 x1 inch
Coverslip Size: Custom
Sealing: Perimeter or flood sealing via combined pressure & UV exposure
Capacity: 9 devices at a time
Ca Test: 5 days with perimeter seal


M8 - Coating 2 Module: Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD)

ALD affords exceptional conformal deposition of oxides in monolayer-by-monolayer precision. This allows very effective encapsulation of a device structure, and also allows fabrication of the highest quality dielectrics for capacitor and TFT structures.

ALD Specifications:

Precursors: Currently for: TiO2, Al2O3, HfO, SnO2 (option to switch in others)
Uniformity: 0.6% single sigma across 8 inch wafer with Al2O3
Substrate size: 8 inch platen for any sizes that will fit in this area
Temperature: substrate temperaures up to ~ 400°C
Temperature Sensitive Substrates: For temperature sensitive substrates Al2O3 process proven down to 75°C and SnO2 down to 100°C


M9 - Substrate Module: Plasma Asher and Vacuum Oven

Plasma ashing of surfaces is an established technique for promoting adhesion of a subsequent coating, through enhancement of surface wetting characteristics by the removal of organic surface contaminants. The vacuum oven can be used with low heat to evaporate off the solvent component of a deposited layer, and may be operated without heat for temperature-sensitive systems. Such treatment can be important in the preparation of a surface for subsequent material depositions.

O2 Plasma Asher Specifications:

Power: Maximum 300 W
Configuration: Roughly 2 x 4 inch diameter (or smaller) substrates can be accommodated
Gases: O2 as standard with optional use of Ar

Vacuum Oven Specifications:

Capcaity: Approx. 8 x 8inch with two trays
Temperature: 200°C
Gases: Bleed valve allows partial pressure under dry N2 flow


M10 - Battery Fabrication Station

This glovebox module comprises a high temperature furnace for sintering of materials and a crimping press for the sealing and unsealing coin cell batteries.

Furnace Specifications:

Internal Chamber Size: 120 x 120 x 120 mm
Maxiumum Temperature: 1,400°C
Operation: For non-evaporating materials only

Coin Cell Crimper Specifications:

Mode: Manual Operation
Cell Size: Compatible with CR20XX coin cells
Operation: Exchangeable mould for crimping as well as de-crimping of coin cells




"Effects of processing-induced contamination on organic electronic devices". D Simatos To be published

High-Performance Humidity Sensing in π-conjugated Molecular Assemblies through the Engineering of Electron/Proton Transport and Device Interfaces", Mindaugas Gicevičius et al, 2022 in press, J. Am. Chem. Soc

[“3D printed hierarchical pillar array electrodes for high performance semiartificial photosynthesis” Xiaolong Chen, Nature Materials. Feb 2022]

Multisource Vacuum Deposition of Methylammonium-Free Perovskite Solar Cells  Anaya Miguel, Chiang Yu-Hsien, Stranks Samuel,  2020/06    ACS Energy Letters