Engineers learn best when they can apply the science and concepts they learn directly in a laboratory or industrial setting. RIT Microelectronic Engineering offers the best of both of these through our outstanding undergraduate oriented cleanroom lab facility and through our required cooperative work experience. When our students lay out a mask design we make the mask ourselves using our in-house electron beam mask writer. Our students learn about ion implantation by actually setting up our implanter. This direct link between learning and doing is what make our students so sought after. As you read the description of the equipment in each individual bay please note the way in which our program uses the equipment for educational purposes which enhance the academic and employment potential of our students.
The Semiconductor and Microsystems Fabrication Laboratory (SMFL) has many resources for use in education. For more detailed information about the lab and its resources for research and industry please visit their website.
The creation of a modern semiconductor integrated circuit device involves hundreds or even thousands of individual processing steps. Dozens of these steps require the deposition and etching of thin layers (tens of nanometers thick) of conducting, semi-conducting and insulating layers. The deposition and etching processes require student to learn about vacuum pumps and gauges, gas flow sensors, high voltage power supplies, gas analysis instruments and many other topics. No other college provide the degree of access and instruction though lab work that RIT can provide. Each process must also be examined in a statistically design experiment, looking at option from a financial and manufacturing point of view in a cost-benefit analysis to determine the viability of a process. This capability is exactly what companies are looking for in new engineers.
The creation of a pattern in an etch-resistant material called photoresist on top of a layer that is to be selectively etched away is the foundation of modern semiconductor processing. Nanolithography goes hand-in-hand with the thin film deposition and etching processes. The patterning process has to have very high wafer-per-hour throughput, hyper-accurate alignment to previous features and resolution of lines and spaces measured in tens of nanometers. Nanolithography currently requires the highest capital investment of any of the process groups. Not only do our students understand the photo-chemistry and optics on image transfer but the myriad of details required to set-up and run such an expensive tool. Student with superior knowledge in this area of processing (such as RIT students) are highly sought after by industry.
Diffusion of elements through solid silicon or glass at elevated (>800C) temperatures is a critical process in integrated circuit fabrication. The principle is similar to the operation of a plug-in heated liquid air freshener. The heat causes scent molecules to go from the liquid state to a gas state and then disperse though out the room by diffusion. Diffusion is simply the natural movement from areas of high concentration to areas of low concentration. Our computer controlled and monitored furnaces give our student experience in writing process recipes which are very similar to industrial practice.
Ion implantation involves specialized gas handling, vacuum systems, extremely high voltages and sophisticated control systems. Very few universities attempt to maintain such a system for research use let alone for instructional purposes. Our undergraduate students have unprecedented exposure to a key piece of processing equipment.
The manufacturing control software system utilized in all our bays is a great example of industrial engineering applied to a very specific task, namely the fabrication of integrated circuits. Multiple process flows from a few dozen steps to hundreds or even thousands of steps are kept on the computer along with detailed instructions for each step. Data is collected for each step and kept for statistical analysis. Student work teams move lots of wafers from step to step in a process that mimics industrial factory operations. Statistical process control (SPC) and big data analysis concepts are taught through using this lab experience.