Campus News - December 10, 2001

Cleanroom trains tech students

By Michael Padilla

Fuchs (left) shows a wafer during one of the stages of the photolithography process to Provost Foster (right) and others invested in the program.  Photo by Michael Padilla.The first phase of UNM’s new semiconductor cleanroom in the Manufacturing Training and Technology Center (MTTC) is now operational and used to train and prepare students to work at semiconductor manufacturing companies and research laboratories.

Although some research will be conducted there, the MTTC cleanroom is distinguished from such facilities at other universities by being primarily a teaching tool. The MTTC cleanroom is also intended to support co-training of engineers and technicians, simulationg an actual manufacturing (“fab”) facility.

UNM Provost Brian Foster recently toured the new cleanroom and had the opportunity to meet with Beth Fuchs, research engineer, and several students in her lab class. “This is what UNM is all about,” Foster said. “We are fortunate to have the capability to offer our students the chance to work with some of the most sophisticated equipment available.”

Joe Cecchi, School of Engineering dean, said the cleanroom is designed to train students to work at places such as Intel and Phillips Semiconductor.

“We will also be working collaboratively with TVI to train their technicians, who will work along side the UNM engineering students,” Cecchi said.

John Wood, director of MTTC, said the cleanroom, in addition to supporting unique training paradigms, will position UNM to be competitive for federal grants in a variety of fields, as well as providing a venue for start-up companies to prototype devices prior to large-scale production.

“We are appreciative of the combined support that Federal agencies (EDA and NSF), the State, and industry have given us to make this project a reality,” Wood said.

The MTTC cleanroom is designed to support multi-level training. This includes UNM undergraduate and graduate level engineers, plus technicians from regional community college’s such as TVI or SIPI, research and development, and incubation of manufacturing technologies.

The Phase I portion of the cleanroom uses silicon wafers, such as those used to create computer chips and apply and pattern photoresist. This is the first step to creating the multiple metal and oxide layers that are patterned to make up microelectronic circuits, or micro electromechanical systems (MEMS).

Wood said the next goal for the cleanroom is the move to a Phase II construction, pending additional funding from the State during the 2002 Legislature. A request of $1.5 million for Phase II construction, which would further build out the cleanroom, and install more than 30 major pieces of donated equipment. MTTC received $925,000 from the State Legislature for Phase I construction.

“We anticipate a need for a Phase II of construction to complete the build-out process and tool installation. As we add more tools (equipment), we will be in a better position to do research,” said Wood.

Major equipment, donated from industry such as Intel Corporation and Philips Semiconductor, are used on the process line.

AT&T and Sandia National Laboratories have also provided equipment for the cleanroom project. Wood said Intel’s donation of $1.7 million in equipment, although the street fair market value at the time was higher, was the largest gift UNM received in 1996.

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