Engineering student builds his own cleanroom at home

Student Spotlight
Matthew Hartensveld, first-year microelectronic engineering

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Freshman Matthew Hartensveld stands outside the Semiconductor and Microsystems Fabrication Laboratory in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering. Hartensveld built his own cleanroom over winter break to continue doing research at home.

Matthew Hartensveld is a first-year microelectronic engineering student. After earning a 4.0 grade point average for his first semester at RIT, Hartensveld was eager to continue doing research. The day after arriving home for winter intersession, he began building his own cleanroom at his home in Wyckoff, N.J. After a week and a half of construction, he was able to begin conducting his own experiments. Hartensveld spends extra time outside of class researching different advancements in the engineering industry and is also involved with the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship on campus.

Q: What brought you to RIT?
A: I came to RIT specifically for the microelectronic engineering program. I was impressed with the program’s advancements in the field and was thankful to have the opportunity as a freshman to participate.

Q: When did you start doing experiments at home?
A: I started doing experiments at home when I was about 14 years old. I got interested in the area by repairing and modifying my Xbox 360 consoles in my garage. I enjoyed peeling back the layers of technology and that started my pursuit into learning more about electronics.

Q: What is a cleanroom?
A: A cleanroom is a facility that is cleaner than a hospital operating room. When working on microchips, a single particle of dust could render it useless. Cleanrooms are necessary when doing these types of projects because a sterile environment is needed.

Q: Why did you decide to make your own cleanroom at home?
A: I am very passionate about learning. Since RIT provides me with so many opportunities to learn, I wanted to take that a step further and apply what I was learning.

Q: What type of experiments have you done in your cleanroom?
A: In my mini cleanroom at home, I am able to perform photolithography, diffusion, oxide growth and etching. These are all integral parts to making modern computer chips.

Q: How does the cleanroom you built compare to the ones at RIT?
A: My cleanroom has many similarities to the RIT cleanrooms, including the HEPA filters for minimal particles, an industrial UV laser for photolithography, similar chemicals for different processes, a kiln/furnace, a motor to spin different samples, special lighting that does not emit UV and similar safety precautions.

Q: How did the information you learned in your classes help you in these at-home experiments?
A: The information I learned in my classes has been an invaluable part of this. I have used equations, methods and safety information from my classes in order to do this project. Even outside of the classroom my professors have been a great help, some even communicated assistance to me through Facebook during winter break.

Q: What is the best part about having your own cleanroom?
A: I am able to gain more insight on different processes by testing my own projects.

Q: What was the most challenging part about building it?
A: The planning and gathering all of the tools was the most challenging. I spent weeks planning ahead so that I would be able to take the full opportunity during the break to use it.

Q: What do you think you want to do after graduation?
A: I would like to do similar research and use my knowledge to make a positive impact on the world through microelectronic engineering.