History of the HEDCO Microelectronics Lab
and the Utah Microfabrication Lab
Precursors to the Utah Nanofab
Professor Robert J. Huber, Director, 1976-1996
Ian R. Harvey, Ph.D., Associate Director, 2002-present
and Monica Heaton, Project Administrator, 2003-present
(updated April 26, 2012)
The history of the University of Utah's microelectronics laboratories goes back to the very early days of the development of large scale integrated circuits. The information technology revolution could not have happened without a particular semiconductor technology known as CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide-Silicon). It is this structure that makes possible modern microprocessor and memory chips, each containing tens or even hundreds of millions of logic gates on a single chip of silicon. The basic CMOS structure was patented by Frank Wanlass shortly after he earned his PhD in physics from the University of Utah in 1962. His thesis advisor was Dr. Henry Eyring, then Dean of the Graduate School at Utah. (See the patent and clipping from the May 1991 issue of "Spectrum".) In 1964 Frank Wanlass and Leland Seely, another 1962 University of Utah Physics PhD, left their west coast jobs to move to General Instrument Corp. in Hicksville, New York with the hopes of establishing a major industrial operation to exploit this new field effect transistor technology. Two years later they convinced General Instrument's top management to set up a modest R & D facility in Salt Lake City. (See the newspaper clippings announcing the event). General Instruments at the time, was competing head-to-head with another hopeful semiconductor company called Intel. We know how that story turns out, and it was General Instrument's Salt Lake laboratory, located at 19 East Oakland Avenue in South Salt Lake, that when closed, provided much of the original equipment for the HEDCO Microelectronics Laboratory. Students would lovingly recall some of that equipment, like the 2" "sixpak" diffusion furnaces that remained in use in the teaching lab throughout the tenure of the microfab prior to the opening of the Utah Nanofab in the new Sorenson/USTAR building.
In 1982, a few years after the HEDCO Lab was constructed in the southeast basement of Merrill, a section of it was converted for use as a "hands-on" student teaching lab. (See clippings 1 and 2 from the June 20, 1982 issue of the "Salt Lake Tribune")
While the HEDCO Lab was the first dedicated microfabrication on the University of Utah Campus, it was not the first effort. About 1969 Willem Kolff, then Director of the Division of Artificial Organs, recognized the potential value of modern microelectronics in that field and initiated the first steps toward establishing a capability at the University. He established a very small lab in one of the old temporary buildings near the Medical School that housed the bulk of his operations and obtained numerous pieces of thin film fabrication equipment for it. However that lab proved too small to be of much value and when the University obtained the General Instrument Lab downtown, the division of Artificial Organs became one of the first University-based users.
The fabrication equipment originally installed in the HEDCO lab came almost totally from donations of industrially obsolete but still serviceable equipment from the semiconductor industry. The donors included General Instrument Corp., Signetics Corp., Fairchild Semiconductor, National Semiconductor Corp., Bell Laboratories, and others. Some of this equipment is still installed and operating in the current microfabrication laboratory. In particular there is a set of diffusion furnaces still operating in the current student lab (with controller upgrades) after over forty years. This furnace stack was originally installed in the General Instrument integrated circuit factory in Hicksville, New York. It was shipped to Salt Lake City for use in an advanced development lab the company operated South Salt Lake from 1966 to 1972. The entire lab, of which this furnace stack was part, was turned over to the University of Utah which operated it for several years as an advanced development lab under contract to General Instrument Corp. With the establishment of the HEDCO Microelectronics Lab in Merrill Engineering, the old General Instrument Lab was discontinued and much of the equipment moved into the new facility.
The fabrication equipment originally installed in the HEDCO lab came almost totally from donations of industrially obsolete but still serviceable equipment from the semiconductor industry. The donors included General Instrument Corp., Signetics Corp., Fairchild Semiconductor, National Semiconductor Corp., Bell Laboratories, and others. Some of this equipment is still installed and operating in the MEB microfabrication laboratory. In particular there is a set of diffusion furnaces still operating in the MEB microfab (with controller upgrades) after over forty years, up until the day the fab moved to the new facility in the Sorenson USTAR building. This furnace stack was originally installed in the General Instrument integrated circuit factory in Hicksville, New York. It was shipped to Salt Lake City for use in an advanced development lab the company operated South Salt Lake from 1966 to 1972. The entire lab, of which this furnace stack was part, was turned over to the University of Utah which operated it for several years as an advanced development lab under contract to General Instrument Corp. With the establishment of the HEDCO Microelectronics Lab in Merrill Engineering, the old General Instrument Lab was discontinued and much of the equipment moved into the new facility.
During the 1980's, microelectronic research in the Electrical Engineering department grew to new heights, with the arrival of the ion implanter shown here being uncrated:
The First Utah Microfab
The HEDCO microfabrication laboratory at the University of Utah began in 1976 when Dean of the College of Engineering, Wayne Brown (referred to as the "father of entrepreneurship at the University of Utah"), obtained modest funding to remodel space in the basement of the Merrill Engineering Building to house the first dedicated lab. The funding consisted of $125,000 from the HEDCO Foundation and an equal amount of University funds. This allowed the installation of the basic services required for a small lab. These services included a heating and ventilation system separate from that of the main building, a substantial increase in available electric power, a re-circulating de-ionized water system, piping for high purity dry nitrogen, compressed air and vacuum as needed to operate the various pieces of fabrication equipment. However the limited funding did not allow for equipment purchases. The HEDCO Lab became operational in 1978.
Origins of the Name
The facility was originally named The HEDCO Microfabrication Laboratory in honor of the organization that provided the first funding. The principals in the foundation preferred to remain in the background so little was said of their motive or even of the details of the foundation. However a few years later the same foundation provided substantially more money for the remodeling of part of the old U. S. Bureau of Mines Building for use by the Materials Science and Engineering Department. That is now named the HEDCO Building.
Bringing in the Second Equipment Set
The second and much larger block of funding for the microfabrication facility came in the mid 1990s in the form of a large grant from the National Science Foundation matched by University funds. This $1.5 million added a much better clean room, upgraded the HVAC system, and allowed for the purchase of much needed new equipment for the fabrication of microstructures, including sputter and e-beam deposition, LPCVD polySi and nitride, wet/dry oxidation and annealing furnaces, a mask aligner, and a combo PECVD oxide/nitride dep & reactive ion etch tool.
In 2002 a major NSF grant was awarded to use microfabrication technologies to train graduate students. This IGERT grant, administered by Prof. Tim Ameel in Mechanical Engineering, initiated a sequence of events that created a new equipment engineering support position, provided matching funds for new equipment, and paid for students to work in the lab, actively upgrading tools and systems. Director Mark Miller oversaw major infrastructure upgrades and lab renovations. New tool capabilities included an electromask pattern generator (photolithographic mask making) tool, another sputtering tool, and funds to adapt and put in place many tools donated by Micron Technology, Inc. (Boise, ID) and Fairchild Semiconductor (West Jordan, UT). These donated tools spawned room and facilities renovations to the 50-year old basement corner of the Merrill Engineering Building, with much-appreciated technical support from facilities experts at M+W Zander, IMFT (Lehi, UT) and Merit Sensors (South Jordan, UT).
The next major catalyst for improvement was the 2005 awarding of an NSF-CRIF grant with PIs Robert Roemer (acting Dean), Scott Anderson (Chemistry), Loren Rieth (ECE), Ian Harvey (MechE). This brought in a multi-technique surface analysis instrument (XPS, Auger, ISS), and created the University Surface Scientist position. That instrument and the lab it catalyzed eventually grew to include AFM, stylus and optical profilometry, DIC optical microscopy, and finally with the boost of the USTAR program, ESEM/EBSD/EDS (2008), microspot XRF, and then dual-beam FIB (2009).
Growing into the nanofab
In the microfab, the rapid growth of the facilities was often frustrating to the users, due to construction projects. Additional rooms were added to the microfab, and organizationally, the microfab established ties with other labs on campus, enabling two key advances: (1) the ability to provide recharge center redistribution of user fees into private labs, to foster collaborations between researchers using provate labs; and (2) the creation of a preliminary data seed fund, enabling researchers to become more competitive in grant writing with hard data in advance of their finished proposal.
Much of the justification for the USTAR programs in nanotechnology was based in the success of the initial group of researchers who taught classes, raised enrollments and interest, and demonstrated the commercialization growth potential of the technologies produced in the microfab. We adopted the name nanofab to signify the encompassing umbrella over the rapidly growing microfabrication facility, the "eyes of the lab" in the Surface Analysis and nano Imaging Lab, and also reaching out to the Affiliated Labs elsewhere on campus.
Because of this demonstrated success and the potential for even greater breakthroughs by placing researchers of engineering, science and medicine within the same physical research spaces, the concept for the USTAR program was born in 2005, and with it, the new Sorenson Molecular Biotechnology Building. Because of the recent track record of growth shown in the figures above, including a history of invention and spin-off companies, and support for the regional research community (including small, industrial users), the nanofab was designed in to the new building and used as a poster child for the notion of job creation that was central to the legislative funding package. This new facility was designed as the first purpose-built research/education thin film deposition and patterning cleanroom in the state, and likely in the intermountain west. The ~7,000 square feet of bay/chase class 1,000 cleanroom was designed to support over 100 active researchers and a similar number of annual students taking lab-based courses and training to become researchers.
The new faculty coming to the University needing access to microfabrication and advanced imaging, whether through the USTAR program or not, are bringing with them active research programs and stimulating the purchase of advanced new fabrication tools for many other researchers to share in and benefit from. Some of these include hot embossing (nanoimprinting), DRIE, ALD, advanced plasma etching, CMP, in-situ doped poly, XeF2 release etch, LTO/PSG, TEOS, and nitride deposition with superior process control capabilities. These tools enable the creation and replication of much more sophisticated devices with advanced functionality. Also, with the addition of advanced packaging techniques, such as the new wafer bonder (by thermal or anodic means), our researchers will be building complex new devices with mixed functionality. On the analytical side, new faculty stimulated acquisition of advanced dual-beam ion microscopy and hi-resolution scanning electron microscopy.
The facility also supports the workforce training pipeline with a rich diversity of course offerings, about a dozen paid undergraduate students per year, and an active approach to outreach, in which lab tours play an important part.
List of Directors:
1976-1996 Professor Robert J. Huber, Director, HEDCO Microelectronics Laboratory
1996-2001 Professor Bruno Frazier, Co-Director, HEDCO Microelectronics Laboratory
Professor Lawrence Sadwick, Co-Director, HEDCO Microelectronics Laboratory
2001-2004 Professor Mark S. Miller, Director, Utah Microfabrication Lab
2004-2005 Professor Robert B. Roemer, Director, Utah Microfab and Surface Science and nano Imaging Lab
2005-2009 Professor Jerry Stringfellow, Director, Utah Microfab and Surface Science and nano Imaging Lab
2009-2011 Professor Florian Solzbacher, Director, Utah Microfab and Surface Science and nano Imaging Lab
2012 transition (to SMBB / a USTAR Innovation Center) Professor Florian Solzbacher, Director, Utah Nanofab and Micron Microscopy Core