Friday, September 16, 2011

SUNY Albany's Nanotech Center Building Next Generation Semiconductor Facility

SUNY Albany has been working on nanotechnology for the better part of the past 20 years, and has been a major center for research as part of the Sematech consortium. The facility is undergoing a major expansion that would double the space for clean rooms and production facilities to test new technology.

The focus of the new technology is to increase the size of the silicon wafers used in semiconductors from the now standard 12 inch (300mm) wafer to an 18 inch (450mm) design that would reduce production costs significantly. This is the kind of advance that has application potential not only for semiconductors, but for solar power cells:
Renderings and other documents obtained by the Times Union show a dramatic, 500,000-square-foot structure that will nearly double the size of the existing College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering campus. The project, to be built in two phases, is rising opposite Washington Avenue Extension from the existing campus.

Officials from Sematech, the computer chip research consortium headquartered at the NanoCollege, have touted the expansion to insiders in recent months, describing the effort to move the industry from making chips on 12-inch, or 300 millimeter silicon wafers, to 18-inch, or 450 millimeter wafers.

The move could revolutionize the way chips are made by drastically reducing costs while increasing output.

A small-scale 450mm research program has been operated by the International Sematech Manufacturing Initiative, a Sematech program that has received millions of dollars in state funding. NanoCollege officials called it a "limited seed program" only two months ago.

But presentations made at semiconductor conferences around the world by Sematech CEO Dan Armbrust and Paolo Gargini, director of technology strategy at chip giant Intel Corp., show that the 450mm program is poised to grow significantly here.

The focal point is a 45,000-square-foot clean room being built as part of the first phase of the NanoCollege project, which is located on an 11-acre, state-owned parcel between Interstate 90 and Washington Avenue Extension.

Gargini showed numerous photos of the Albany construction project in July at SemiconWest, an annual conference held each year in San Francisco for companies that make computer chip manufacturing equipment, also known as "tools."
The main question is why all the secrecy over the expansion plans and funding sources. Aside from that, it's awesome to see my alma mater at the forefront of tech research and plans made while I was still a student there to come to fruition to turn the university into a major research institution for nanotechnology.

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