The lab of ... Electronic Components, Technology and Materials

Violeta Prodanovic and Sten Vollebregt work together in the clean lab (Photo: Sam Rentmeester)
Violeta Prodanovic and Sten Vollebregt work together in the clean lab (Photo: Sam Rentmeester)

It’s definitely the cleanest place on campus and possibly one of the cleanest places in Europe but these are just normal operating conditions for the Class 100 cleanroom within the Dimes Technology Centre (DTC) where the Electronic Components, Technology and Materials (ECTM) group does their research.

It’s called class 100 because there are 100 dust particles per cubic foot, which pales in comparison to a typical lab’s count of 10,000 dust particles per cubic foot. Postdoctoral researcher Sten Vollebregt of the Netherlands boasts, “The lab is cleaner than an operating table in a hospital by a factor of 10 to 100.”

Not only is this the cleanest lab in the university but also it’s the only lab where you can integrate electronic circuits with a semi industrial process. Being able to fabricate everything which you can find on a chip, ECTM focusses on micro-fabrication. Working on a wafer level, they set themselves apart from other labs (that focus on the chip level) by attempting to upscale the production process. “At the DTC the goal is to bridge the gap between new device concepts and industrial applications,” says Vollebregt who is currently working on developing full wafer scale fabrication and transfer processes for graphene, an atomic thick layer of carbon. Current fabrication methods using chemical vapour deposition have been successful up to the wafer scale but have yet to be integrated within a real semi industrial process. If large-scale manufacturing cannot be done, the material is not useful but Vollebregt remains optimistic.

With focus on the production of larger quantities, many in the group work closely with industry partners like PhD candidate Violeta Prodanović from Serbia. The National Institute for Nuclear Physics and High Energy Physics (Nikhef) chose Prodanović for her expertise in microelectromechanical systems. She is attempting to fabricate one part of their photon detector using microelectromechanical systems. “These photon detectors, or thin dynodes made of silicon nitride, are special because they are really ultra fast, with a time resolution of a couple of pico seconds,” says Prodanović. Coupling that with their small size makes them perfect for their application in medical imaging techniques.

Connecting academics with Industrial Innovation, the ECTM group help to realize the potential of technology developed both inside and out of the university.