University of Nevada is set to open a nanofabrication cleanroom

Published: 15-Feb-2024

The University of Nevada has publicised plans to open the Davidson Foundation Cleanroom later this year to manufacture materials with nanometer dimensions

University of Nevada in the US has announced that the Davidson Foundation Cleanroom is opening later this year in the William Pennington Engineering Building.

The cleanroom will be the only one of its kind in the northern Nevada region.

The Cleanroom’s new Director, Russell Renzas, has been equipping the facility with tools and equipment necessary for nanofabrication.

Nanofabrication is the manufacture of materials with nanometer dimensions, items that are one-millionth of a meter.

Davidson Foundation Cleanroom will be the only one of its kind in the northern Nevada region

Nanofabrication processes are used to manufacture modern integrated circuits of all kinds from silicon-based transistor technology to quantum devices.

Researchers will be able to push the boundaries of semiconductors, photonics and other nanofabricated technology in this new cleanroom.

The new cleanroom is also expected to support current and future local industries by offering:

  • Access to cutting-edge research and prototype capabilities.
  • Developing a workforce trained in critical nanofabrication skills.

Russell Renzas said: “This facility is going to change the trajectory of technology innovation here in northern Nevada.”

The Davidson Foundation Cleanroom will support the College of Engineering’s research pillar addressing resilient supply chains and critical materials, including semiconductors and batteries.

Erick Jones, Engineering Dean, said: “When the Davidson Foundation Cleanroom is operational, it will dramatically expand our research capabilities, enrich the academic opportunities for our students and transform the region’s tech industry.”

How clean is a cleanroom?

Because nanofabrication happens at the atomic level, the process must be conducted in dust-free environments.

Most of the Davidson Foundation Cleanroom’s 2,937 sqft is rated Class 1000, which means there are less than 1,000 particles per cubic meter of air. 

This level of cleanliness requires, essentially, a gigantic HVAC system

The lithography bay, where some types of masking and etching are conducted, is Class 100.

Renza said: “This level of cleanliness requires, essentially, a gigantic HVAC system to push air through HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters into the cleanroom and then pull it out through the service chases, as well as to control the temperature and humidity of the air.”

Looking ahead

Cleanroom machinery currently on order includes:

  • An ICP RIE etch system from Oxford Instruments uniquely configured with two atomic layer etch manifolds, cryogenic capability and optical emission spectroscopy.
  • A maskless lithography system which enables photoresist patterning without the need for costly physical masks.
  • An electron beam evaporator that enables deposition and patterning of metals without the need for etch processes.
  • A sputtering system used in a deposition process in which a plasma is used to ablate material from a metal or dielectric target. 
  • A 3D circuit printer which can create flex and standard PCB boards with buried features not possible using standard PCB fabrication techniques.

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