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Spotlight On: ZEISS ORION NanoFab He/Ne Fib

Each month we post a new edition to the SES ‘Spotlight On…’ series, showcasing equipment at our institutions, providing information and case studies for interested researchers/industries, and promoting better use of already available equipment.

The ZEISS ORION NanoFab (ORION) is a new type of Instrument that has dual functions. It is a Helium Ion Microscope (HIM) that uses helium ions for surface imaging and analysis. Its functionality is similar to a scanning electron microscope (SEM), but it uses a focused beam of helium ions instead of electrons. By comparison with state-of-the-art SEM, the ORION gives:

  • higher resolution images from the 0.5 nm helium beam diameter
  • better material contrast without the need for metal coating, even for biological samples
  • five to 10 times greater depth of field

In conjunction with built in Helium and Neon Focused Ion Beam capability, it can provide “slice and view” capabilities for sub-surface imaging.

Name of Equipment


Any SLAs or standards (eg ISO, ..) associated with the facility:


255 m2 of ISO 14644-1 Class 6 (Class 1000) cleanroom space.  This houses the majority of the equipment including Electron Beam Lithography tools. An ISO7 facility also houses three Focused Ion Beam (FIB) tools.

Do you have to visit onsite?

If the work is not to be outsourced, appropriate training on the ZEISS ORION NanoFab following a Health & Safety Induction would have to place prior to the work commencing

Do you give preference to a particular type of researcher? E.g. Based on institution, field of research.  

Anyone can access the ZEISS ORION NanoFab as long as it can meet their research objectives and anticipated outcomes, and the necessary NDAs are in place

Current Research:

Many of our users are engaged in quantum-related research, but the equipment can be used across the breadth of nanotechnology research interests. The LCN is able to provide training to users and technical support, but the support staff are not directly involved in the in the individuals’ research.

Current research focuses on making a sub-10 nm hole for DNA study, narrowing superconductive nanowire and making nanobridge Josephson junctions for quantum devices; He/Ne ion implement in quantum devices and also imaging on the X-Ray nanoprobe array for process control in enterprise.

What do the users think?

The helium ion microscope is a unique microstructural analysis support platform for our research and technology activities in nano-analysis and nano-processing, leading to exciting capabilities for cutting-edge correlative microscopy. Technical support at the LCN was very professional, enabling us to quickly obtain images of our biosamples with information that was not accessible using SEM

Professor Beverley Inkson, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Sheffield

The LCN has a great microscope and great people. The service LCN provided with the helium ion microscope directly led to publications and has opened up some interesting new possible business opportunities

Dr James Sagar, Oxford Instruments

Who has access?

The ZEISS ORION NanoFab is an open access, national facility and not attached to any particular group research. New users are warmly welcomed.

Are there any costs or associated fees?

There is an hourly charge associated with using the equipment.  Academics are charged at a lower rate than commercial organisations

Can it be bought as a service with access to a team of experts?

We can do the work on behalf of individual/organisation but this would involve an additional cost on top for staff time

Where is it located?

London Centre for Nanotechnology
B204B FIB lab
17-19 Gordon Street


Potential relevant disciplines:

Nano-analytics, Nano-imaging, Nano-patterning, Nano-processingImage credit (text body): Detail of an uncoated blue-morpho butterfly wing taken with the LCN’s He ion microscope


Profile picture - Steve Etienne

Mr Steve Etienne

Cleanroom Manager, London Centre for Nanotechnology (LCN).