Site: Joint Research Center for Atom Technology (JRCAT)
Angstrom Technology Partnership (ATP)
c/o National Institute for Advanced Interdisciplinary Research
1-1-4 Higashi, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305, Japan
Tel: (81) 298-54 2570; Fax: (81) 298-54 2575

Date Visited: 22 July 1997

WTEC: R.W. Siegel (report author), D.M. Cox, H. Goronkin, J. Mendel, H. Morishita, M.C. Roco



Tuesday morning 9:30 to 12:00 noon of 22 July was spent in Tsukuba visiting the Joint Research Center for Atom Technology (JRCAT), an organization founded in February of 1993 through a joint contract between the National Institute for Advanced Interdisciplinary Research (NAIR) and the Angstrom Technology Partnership (ATP). These latter organizations were created by the Agency of Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). The central focus of JRCAT is the Atom Technology Project, a ten-year effort begun by AIST in fiscal year 1992 as one of its Industrial Science and Technology Frontier Programs under the official title, Research and Development of Ultimate Manipulation of Atoms and Molecules. AIST's total ten-year budget for this project is about 25 billion (~ $250 million), which flows mostly (~ 90%) through the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) and hence ATP, with the balance (~ 10%) flowing directly through NAIR. The distinct advantage of this imbalance for JRCAT is that the NAIR funds are hard (national) monies that cannot be used for hiring people, while the ATP funds are soft (invested) monies that can be used very flexibly. The Atom Technology Project is envisioned as comprised of overlapping efforts in atom manipulation, nanoscale self-organization, and critical-state phase control based on in situ dynamic measurement and control complemented by ab initio calculation.

The WTEC panel visit was hosted by Dr. Eiichi Maruyama, Executive Director of ATP and the Atom Technology Project Leader, who presented a very informative and extensive introduction to JRCAT and its research efforts. JRCAT presently has 36 administrators and about 100 research scientists, of whom 35 are from industry, 28 are from national laboratories, 7 are from universities, 26 are postdocs, and four are PhD candidates. About 60% of the scientific staff are supported from ATP and 40% from NAIR. Of these, there are 78 PhDs, 21 foreign scientists, and 3 female scientists. The total funding flow has been reasonably steady since FY1995 at about 2.5 billion per annum, with significant fluctuations in the first three years for initial capital expenditures. The publication of research results in "major" journals (i.e., those with high citation impact factors, such as Nature, Science, Physical Review Letters, Applied Physics Letters, and Physical Review B) appears to be used as a measure of research program success. There have been a significant number of such publications (~ 120 per year) from JRCAT during FY94-FY96.


The Atom Technology Project research program is lead by Project Leader E. Maruyama along with Deputy Project Leaders K. Tanaka (experiment) and K. Terakura (theory) and is organized into 11 groups in four general areas. These are (with leader):

Solid Surface and Solid Material

Cluster in Free Space

Organic Molecular Structure

Quantum Simulation of Atomic and Molecular Processes

18 scientists working on several programs, including the following:

The theory group is also responsible for the JRCAT Supercomputer Laboratory, introduced in March 1994.

Formal evaluation of the research program is held only at its midpoint (six years) and end (ten years), but annual reports are produced. Successful efforts are expected to be transferred to industry. Some projects are continued under new programs, and others are terminated after these evaluations. The second phase (next 4 years) of JRCAT will see increased collaboration with industry, a new study on spin-electronics applications, and an effort to maintain top-level atom technology. The primary scope of the Atom Technology Project will continue to include nanostructure formation and control of surfaces and interfaces (especially in semiconductor and related materials); spin electronics (new materials and measurements); observation and manipulation of atoms and clusters; and theoretical simulation (emphasizing good interaction with experimental groups).

In carrying out its mission, JRCAT interacts with foreign universities via contact and exchange of scientists (e.g., with the University of Birmingham in the UK). Also, the science and technology laws in Japan were changed ca. 1995 to allow Japanese university professors to have more significant interaction with JRCAT and other industries.

The WTEC panel also made visits to four JRCAT research laboratories, the Advanced Interdisciplinary Laboratories of Drs. K. Tanaka, K. Ichikawa (H. Watanabe, host) and Y. Tokura (A. Asamitsu, host), and the Theoretical Research Laboratory of Dr. K. Terakura. The group of Dr. H. Tokumoto was unfortunately away at a conference that day; it is active in attempts to create nanoscale ferroelectric domains by scanning force microscopy (SFM) for nonvolatile, high density memories, sensors and actuators, but is mainly working at the micron scale at present. It also works on self-assembled monolayers (SAM) on surfaces, particularly those that are electrically conductive. All of the groups are extremely well equipped with all of the latest facilities and capabilities necessary to carry out their respective missions.

The Tanaka group laboratory is located in a specially vibration-isolated separate building in the NAIR facilities. The primary research themes of this group are (1) fabrication of semiconductor nanostructures and investigation of their defect structure, (2) creation of magnetic superstructures and searching for new magnetic materials, and (3) elucidation at atomic/molecular levels of the electric double layer at solid-liquid interfaces. Work is ongoing in developing high resolution Raman spectroscopy for the study of molecules on surfaces. It was reported that information from individual molecules can be obtained by coupling to surface plasmon polarization, which enhances the signal by three orders of magnitude. Also, atom manipulation (atom and layer removal) by scanning tunneling microscope (STM) tips is being carried out on Si (mainly) and high temperature superconductors in a UHV-STM without damaging the surrounding regions.

The Ichikawa group has as its primary research themes (1) development of an atomic manipulation system using beam technology and extremely high vacuum pumping, (2) development of surface/interface characterization technologies, and (3) exploration of surface/interface reactions useful for nanostructure formation. The laboratory contained a state-of-the-art 30 keV UHV field-emission scanning electron microscope (SEM) with an SPM being used for Si-based nanostructures. For this development project, a unique STM with atomic resolution was developed on a 6-axis manipulator in the UHV-FE-SEM, but because of unique problems with vibration isolation, the system requires a special isolation room. Electron holography using a biprism to produce 2 coherent beams from the FE (field emission) gun was also in place on the SEM and was being used to create nanoperiodic structures (with 17 nm wavelengths) on SiO2. In another major development project, a multifunctional Surface Analysis System, with Auger analysis with a 1.4 nm diameter beam probe, was built in this group. About $2.5 million was spent on each of these two major development projects.

The Tokura group (also partly at the University of Tokyo) focuses on the synthesis and physics of oxide electronic materials and organic molecular systems. Examples of current work are the floating-zone crystal growth, in a parabolic mirror image furnace (manufactured by NEC), of large single crystals (e.g., Pr0.65Cu0.35MnO3); investigation of natural one-dimensionally modulated nanostructured superlattices (....+ insulating + magnetic + insulating +....) for giant or colossal magnetoresistance (GMR or CMR) applications; and studies of electric-field-induced resistivity changes in ... + insulating + metallic + insulating + metallic + .... multilayers, such as Pr1-xCaxMnO3 (e.g., x = 0.3), below 100 K. A main focus of the group's research is using laser ablation to build layers by cluster assembly on stepped substrates of SrTiO3 for functional device applications. A system with five movable targets and a fixed laser is being used for this work, and the studies are carried out as a function of substrate temperature and oxygen partial pressure.

Finally, the WTEC team visited the Terakura theory group, led by Dr. Kiyoyuki Terakura, who has been at JRCAT for about three and a half years. This world-class theory group specializes in first-principles, state-of-the-art quantum simulations of atomic and molecular processes in the areas of semiconductor surfaces, transition metal compounds, and exotic materials such as conducting organic solids (e.g., DCNQI-M, with M = Li, Ag, Cu). The group also develops new computational methodologies for approaching such problems and is responsible for the large-scale supercomputer system at JRCAT, consisting of two main computers ¾ a vector-parallel computer (VPP500/32) and a massively-parallel computer (128 node CM-5E). The theory group has good interactions with the experimental efforts at JRCAT; although frequently the experimentally investigated systems can be rather complex for fundamental theoretical simulation, serious theoretical efforts are made to benefit the experimental program. The Terakura group also has extensive external collaborations with NEC, Hitachi, Fujitsu, and various universities in Japan and abroad. In addition to its normal publications, the theory group disseminates the results of its efforts in a series of well-prepared annual reports.

Published: September 1999; WTEC Hyper-Librarian