RIT’s support of the needs of the semiconductor industry started over 25 years ago with the creation of programs devoted to microelectronic engineering and integrated circuit (IC) technology. The success of education and research efforts have been enabled in large part through the establishment of a collaborative one-of-a-kind silicon process technology facility, known as the Semiconductor and Microsystems Fabrication Laboratory (SMFL). RIT’s dedication to providing opportunities for students, faculty, and collaborators has led to success in a wide range of related fields. These include semiconductor materials and processing, nanoelectronics, integrated photonics, microfluidics, MEMS, bioMEMS, nanolithography, thin-film devices, plasmonics, photovoltaics, terahertz metrology, printed electronics, modelling, micro-robotics, and organic electronics, among others. Efforts in these areas have been enhanced by a focus on research and workforce development at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
For over four decades, the shrinking dimensions of microelectronic devices have given rise to new generations that employ innovation on the micro- and nano-scale. The exponential growth in capability of the integrated circuit has been at the forefront of this innovation since its inception. Over twenty-five years ago, the Rochester Institute of Technology invested in the future of micro/nano-scale engineering, supporting the growth of the semiconductor industry through an initiative involving academic programs and research in areas that have been critical for its success. Through the creation of bachelors, masters, and doctorate degree programs in microelectronic engineering, microsystems engineering and other related disciplines, over 2,000 engineers have been placed into critical engineering positions throughout the US, Europe, and Asia. RIT’s success in these areas is unique, leading to top recognition for student opportunities by both industrial and educational organizations. RIT’s strength and success in these areas is based in large measure on its dedication to providing opportunities for students in relevant high-technology fields. The impact is far reaching, enabling industrial growth as well as providing the basis for advanced graduate education through expanding research opportunities. Collaborative research at RIT is being carried out in new and novel technologies covering nearly all areas of engineering and science. An integral part of these efforts has been the Kate Gleason College of Engineering’s 15,000 sq. ft. integrated circuit clean room fabrication facility, known as the Semiconductor and Microsystems Fabrication Laboratory (SMFL). This facility was built in 1985 to tackle the upcoming workforce and technology needs of the semiconductor industry. The laboratory houses a full complement of equipment and processes necessary for research, development, and education in the semiconductor and related fields. As new frontiers of micro/nano-scale technologies develop, more opportunities for involvement in education and research arise. A key goal is the exploration into new frontiers involving the evolution of the education and research to meet the future needs of micro- and nano-technology.
The SMFL offers resources and technical expertise in the design and development of silicon and related process technologies to academic and industrial partners. The SMFL mission encompasses education, research and industrial partnership. In addition to providing faculty and students with exceptional resources for education and research, a primary objective is to become a principal resource for applied solutions in microdevice design, process development, microsystem integration, and prototype fabrication. The main portion of RIT’s SMFL facility is a 10,000 sq. ft., class 1,000 cleanroom with a bay and chase configuration, housing a complement of equipment for silicon processing. Process and research equipment is contained within the cleanroom and in laboratory space surrounding the central facility. Activities in the SMFL involve mainstream silicon processing as well as activities that fall outside of traditional technologies. Additional space includes traditional scientific laboratories and clean-lab configurations with limited environmental control.
Processing capabilities of the SMFL include a full complement of equipment including:
RIT’s vision for micro/nano-scale engineering has been aligned to a large extent with that of the US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). Formed in the year 2000, the NNI helped define the strategies necessary to set the pace for worldwide nanotechnology-related activities. This shared vision has involved the understanding and control of micro/nano-scale technology combined with the development of educational resources and a skilled workforce, the advancement of world-class research and development, the transfer of new technologies into products for commercial and public benefit, and the development of support infrastructure and tools to advance technology. Prominent educational and research activities have been established at RIT in fields aligned with those supported by the NNI. Collaborative activities have been enabled which continue to grow with the addition of new faculty, students, and researchers to provide a long term outlook for the future of micro/nano-scale engineering at RIT. This technology is a critical component in addressing global challenges in areas of energy, communications, environment, healthcare, security, and sustainability. The needs of the engineering research and education facilities have grown since RIT’s early initiatives to support the semiconductor industry. The silicon processing within the SMFL that has enabled applications of semiconductor devices not imagined thirty years ago has led to new opportunities for involvement over a wide range of disciplines.