The budget has been approved, the contracts awarded, the concrete
poured. The steel that will frame CITRIS's future headquarters has
begun arriving on the UC Berkeley campus. Yes, after a major redesign
effort aimed at streamlining the seven-story, multi-use building,
construction is underway.
In addition to high-tech classrooms, offices, and conference rooms, the
new building will be home to the CITRIS Nanolab Center (CNC). This
new, state-of-the-art shared research facility is not only key to
CITRIS's vision of pioneering nano-scale technologies with
societal-scale impact, but is also part of a larger investment in
nanotechnology that will ultimately spur new innovations and industries
"The new CITRIS Nanolab Center, together with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Molecular Foundry and the new Stanley Hall Biosciences and Bioengineering facility,
present a coordinated investment in nanotech infrastructure at UC
Berkeley and LBNL," explains Dr. Bill Flounders, technology manager of
The Berkeley MicroLab, which the CNC will replace.
While the new lab is being constructed with the future in mind, it also
builds upon a rich legacy dating back to 1962, when UC Berkeley opened
the first university integrated circuit lab under the legendary
leadership of Professor Don Pederson. SPICE (Simulation Program with
Integrated Circuit Emphasis), an integrated circuit simulation program,
was just one of the revolutionary technologies to come out of that lab.
Berkeley's MicroLab has continued that tradition since 1982, by
providing a space for ground-breaking research in semiconductor and
microfabrication technology. But after nearly a quarter of a century,
the MicroLab is operating beyond its capacity.
"Berkeley is in a unique position in that it has operated a
micro/nanofab lab for many years. It has an existing tool base and this
enables us to design at a foundation level. At the same time, this new
lab needs to be able to evolve the same technologies for several more
generations, and accept and integrate new technologies," explains
Flounders, who is in charge of setting up the new facility.
Planning a lab that will accommodate technologies and equipment that
do not yet exist is no mean task. The separate, two-story laboratory
wing has been designed for maximum flexibility, so it can house not
only research currently underway at Berkeley's MicroLab, but also
projects and equipment several generations away.
To this end, the laboratory will have several unique features. An
integrated flammable and toxic gas monitoring system will automatically
shut off all gases in the event of any leak detection or even minor
earthquakes. Also, "The lab vibration control will ensure the ability
to fabricate nanometer-scale structures via electron beam lithography '
from next generation micro electronics to nanoelectromechanical systems
(NEMS) and nanobioelectronic components," explains Flounders.
"We designed the lab to accommodate almost any piece of
nanofabrication equipment currently available'and then tried to build
in flexibility for the unknown," says Flounders. For example, if a
future piece of equipment is too heavy or large to go in the
15,000-pound lift freight elevator, it can be delivered by crane
through a 14-foot removable window. A single entrance and shared
elevator and stairwell will make it possible for researchers to travel
between the two 7,500 square-foot floors of the cleanroom facility
without having to re-gown in between.
While these and other features represent a big improvement over the
current MicroLab, some things will not change. Like its predecessor,
the CNC will be open to researchers from the widest range of
disciplines and backgrounds (both academic and industrial), and the lab
will welcome a broader range of materials than typically found in a
standard microelectronics research facility. Also, the lab will
continue to operate as a recharge operation; researchers will be
charged modest fees for lab access and use of equipment.
"The lab will support research in a much broader range of fields than
just next generation microelectronics: for example, NEMS,
optoelectronics, bionanotechnology, and most importantly the
integration of these technologies," Flounders says. Indeed, researchers
from the new Stanley Hall facility and the CNC will be able to move
their research between both laboratories, as needed.
That is important, Flounders says, because "nanotechnology
represents the intersection and integration of multiple scientific
disciplines. The CNC will be specifically geared to enable and foster
the large, multi-departmental research proposals that nanotechnology
So what is next? Making more faculty members aware there is a facility
able to accommodate integrated nanotechnology research. "Placing some
of their start-up or proposal funded equipment in that facility can
actually increase research productivity and expand research impact,"
Construction is due to be complete in December 2008.