Professor Hugh Brady opens state-of-the-art university cleanroom

Facility will help to foster collaboration with industrial partners and provide a training environment for Bristol’s postgraduate students

From left to right: Professor Andrew Nix, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering; Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Hugh Brady, with a silicon wafer incorporating nano-devices manufactured in a cleanroom; Professor Tim Gallagher, Dean of the Faculty of Science

The Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Hugh Brady, has officially opened the new University of Bristol cleanroom. This multimillion pound facility is said to be the jewel in the crown for research groups at Bristol who specialise in micro- and nano-fabrication.

In the highly controlled environment within the cleanroom, the air is continuously filtered and full gowning procedures are in place to prevent contamination.

These extremes of cleanliness are absolutely necessary, given that a single mote of dust could spell disaster for a device whose scale is less than a thousandth of a millimetre. For such small devices, any speck of dust, grit or fluff would be akin to dropping a wrecking ball on your home.

The cleanroom houses specialist research tools that will be used by groups from the Faculties of Science and Engineering. Staff from departments as diverse as electronic engineering and plant life sciences spoke at the event to highlight the role the new facility will have in their research.

At the opening, Professor Claire Grierson of BrisSynBio described how the microfluidic devices that are unique to her group are used to sort and control individual cells, which can only be made in the cleanroom, and how this is empowering her international collaborations. Professor Mark Thompson of the Centre for Quantum Photonics highlighted the benefits to his cutting-edge research in quantum technologies and the importance of being able to rapidly prototype new designs and ideas in photonics.

Guest external speaker, Dr Ian Sturland of BAE Systems, emphasised the applications of cleanroom technologies in modern industry. He noted that this facility will help to foster productive collaborations with industrial partners, as well as ensuring that Bristol’s postgraduate students are trained in the state-of-the-art tools used commercially.

Professor Brady was delighted to hear of the work going on in the cleanroom and, in particular, the depth and scope of the research; he commented that the cross-faculty nature of this research environment is key to strengthening the research output of the university, a factor that is particularly important ahead of the forthcoming government reviews in science and research funding.

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