3 Ion Implantation Applications: Nuclear Science, Space & Semiconductors

February 28, 2024

Ion implantation is a materials modification process that scientists use to change the physical, chemical, or electrical properties of a solid. In this blog post, we discuss three important applications of ion implantation.

Ion implantation is one of many scientific techniques used by particle accelerators across a variety of fields of study. To change the physical, chemical, or electrical properties of a solid, ions are:

  1. Accelerated
  2. Passed through magnetic and electrostatic filters
  3. Inserted into or causes microscopic damage to a solid

This can typically be done with single ended accelerators for light ions or tandem accelerators for heavy ions.

Read more: Tandem vs. Single Ended Particle Accelerators

Why is this technique important and how is it used by scientists? Here are three examples of ion implantation.

3 Ion Implantation Applications

#1. Ion Implantation for Nuclear Science

Nuclear science is the study of the atomic world. Specifically, nuclear science focuses on understanding properties and behaviors of atomic nuclei (the central, dense cores of atoms). Understanding atomic nuclei not only contributes to our understanding of the physical universe but also has practical applications in:

So, where does ion implantation come into play for this field?

The biggest use case of ion implantation in this industry is nuclear damage studies.

Researchers use ion implantation to simulate the inside of nuclear reactors. This allows them to study the effects of radiation and other conditions that materials may face inside nuclear reactors. With particle accelerators, researchers can simulate conditions in a matter of weeks or months, instead of waiting for years of reactor operation to observe the effects on materials.  The goal is to study and improve shield materials to better protect surrounding structures and personnel from radiation.

#2. Ion Implantation for Space Science

Space science encompasses a broad range of scientific disciplines that study different aspects of space and the universe as a whole.

Similar to nuclear science, scientists can use ion implantation to better understand how the harsh conditions of space impact our technology and materials. Space is made up of high energy radiation, and ion beams are useful tools to simulate this environment to test how technology and materials can withstand these conditions. For example:

Other ion beam analysis techniques like PIXE analysis and RBS can provide more details about the elements present within materials and their relative atomic percentages. This allows researchers to better understand how ions deposit energy as they pass through different layers of materials.

Read More: PIXE Analysis: How It Works & Why It Matters

#3. Ion Implantation for Semiconductor Devices

Semiconductor devices are electronic components that control the flow of electrical currents. Typically made of silicon, semiconductor materials have electrical properties that can be controlled and modified, making them ideal for building various electronic devices including transistors, diodes, and integrated circuits.

Ion implantation is an important process in semiconductor device fabrication to tailor the electrical characteristics of different regions with the device. Through a process called doping, ion implantation introduces dopant atoms into the crystal lattice of a semiconductor material. Dopants are elements with either extra electrons (“n-type” dopants) or missing electrons (“p-type” dopants). The controlled introduction of these dopants alters the electrical properties of the semiconductor material in precise regions to ensure proper device operation.

Conclusion: Science Breaks Through with Ion Implantation

To conduct these advanced techniques in ion implantation, labs will typically need two or three accelerators. The “gold standard” setup includes:

Whether it’s used to modify electrical properties of semiconductor devices or replicate the conditions of radiation for further studying, ion implantation is an advanced technique that’s pushing forward important scientific fields and technological applications.

With over 50 years of accelerator experience, NEC provides industry-leading ion implantation systems and related components designed to expand the research goals of scientific communities around the world. Tell us about your research needs by contacting us today.