New Cleanroom Opens: Microchip Fab
to be Required
Virginia Tech began operating its new 1800 square-foot cleanroom
and plans to make microchip fabrication experience a requirement
for all EE and CPE undergraduates.
The new undergraduate teaching laboratory, in Whittemore Hall,
can accommodate up to 500 undergraduates per year and is one
of the country's largest such facilities for second- and third-year
undergraduates. "As an undergraduate teaching facility,
it is unprecedented," said Robert
Hendricks, director of Tech's Center for Microelectronics,
Optoelectronics, and Nanotechnology (MicrON). "Most
university clean rooms are available to seniors and graduate
students only," he explained.
The cleanroom was built to ISO Class 7 (Class 10,000) standards,
but is operated at ISO Class 6 (Class 1,000) standards in order
to give students experience in the more stringent protocols.
"We have developed an introductory microchip fabrication
laboratory in which students process 4-inch wafers to create
working nMOSFETs and other devices." Plans are for the course
to be required of all EE, CPE, MSE, and physics students. "No
other school in the country exposes as many students to the process
as we will," Hendricks said.
The goal is to introduce the concepts of microchip fabrication
in the sophomore year and then develop a 15-credit-hour-option,
or minor, in microelectronics engineering. The cleanroom and
curriculum are part of a major restructuring and expansion of
the university's education and research capabilities in microelectronics.