Nano-Nano: Beyond Mork and Mindy into Inspirational Education

In the 1980?s, the Mork and Mindy TV series featured a comedic outer space alien played by Robin Williams who said Nanu-Nanu which loosely meant "Hello." Today, Nano has a seriously different meaning.

The College of NanoScale Science and Engineering (CNSE), New York University at Albany covers just about any and everything Nano. It concentrates on nanoscience, nanoengineering, nanobioscience and nanoeconomics. It is the first college in the world dedicated to research, development, education and deployment in all these fields. They accommodate production of 300mm wafers,150mm wafers, and soon 450mm wafers.

Kids learning through hands-on experiments at Nano Days 2012

Kids learning through hands-on experiments at Nano Days 2012

CNSE just completed a week within their community working with children and teenagers as part of national Nano Days 2012 to inspire young people to pursue educational and career opportunities in the fast-growing field of nanotechnology. The event touched on understanding the structure of thin films and DNA, the importance of polymers, and the unique properties of hydrogels to exploring technologies that power solar panels and automobiles.

Nano Days 2012 is organized by the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network (NISE Net) with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). It is an effort among universities, research centers, and science museums across the country. In New York, CNSE interacted with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Albany, the Capital District in Troy. The children experienced experiments and hands-on activities to learn about so many nano things. For example, the simple experience of using sieves with different-sized holes, to sort balls by size.

SUNY Board Chairman H. Carl McCall said: "Programs such as this introduce students to the rich opportunities they have for success in the high-tech arena, while continuing to build the highly skilled workforce that will give New York a true competitive advantage in the global economy."

Participants could assemble polymer (or gummy) spheres thereby learning that self-assembly is a process by which molecules and cells form themselves into functional structures. Self-assembly is used in healthcare to make nanocapsules that can deliver medication. In another activity children created a colorful bookmark using a super thin layer of nail polish on water. By doing so, they learned that a thin film creates iridescent, rainbow colors. These were just a few ways in which CNSE illustrated to a new generation the excitement and possibilities of nano sciences.

Cleanroom at CNSE

CNSE Cleanroom

Since 1994, College of NanoScale Science and Engineering gathered over $14 billion for its CNSE Albany NanoTech Complex which encompasses 800,000 square feet and employs more than 2,600 on-site R&D staff. Each fab has significant cleanroom space. One fab contains production space for 300mm wafers and the world?s first extreme ultraviolet (EUV) Alpha Demo Tool. Another holds classrooms and college offices. A third fab contains metrology labs and office space, whereas the fourth, the Smart Systems Technology and Commercialization Center is made up of 150mm wafer production space, MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) and optoelectronic packaging. If that weren?t enough, a new expansion is being built for the world?s first Global 450mm Consortium. The college has developed a partnership between the university, semiconductor industry, and government.

The EUV Alpha Demo Tool was developed by ASML, a company headquartered in the Netherlands that provides lithography systems for the semiconductor industry. Extreme Ultra Violet is the light source used in the lithography machine. Each new generation of chips requires smaller transistors, thus semiconductor lithography machines need to print finer features as new chips come out. The wavelength of light used is the limiting factor in the resolution of the equipment. A shorter wavelength equates to a higher resolution and smaller features. Lithography machines have had to keep pace. Deep ultraviolet offers 248 to 193 nanometers, whereas the more desirable EUV has a wavelength of 13.5 nanometers. EUV poses significant technical challenges as explained by ASML.