Technion - Israel Institute of Technology


The Nano Generation
By Amanda Jaffe-Katz

"It is illustrative of the incredible vitality of the Zisapel Nanoelectronics Center," announced Electrical Engineering Prof. Joseph Salzman in May, "inaugurated just this morning, and already we have notification that the first workshop in the 3-year training series - ProMiNaS - will be at Technion. This is the first international recognition of the Zisapel Center."

ProMiNaS (Prototyping in the Micro and the Nano Scale) offers hands-on laboratory courses in the area of Micro- and Nanotechnology to train young researchers in the experimental tools needed to close the gap between conventional microelectronics - its technologies and materials, and the novel, exotic and possibly contaminating materials and systems in nanoelectronics. Financed by the European Union (€600,000) as part of the Marie Curie Conferences and Training Courses, the six scheduled courses plus a final 3-day workshop take place at Technion, the Institute of Photonics and Nanotechnology (IFN-CNR) in Rome, and the Département de Recherche sur la Matière Condensée, CEA Grenoble, France.

The July 2007 course, held at Technion, addressed Basic Microelectronic Processing. Participants are early in their research careers, either advanced PhD students, postdoctoral researchers, or young engineers. The interesting aspect, Salzman says, is their diversity in background discipline. They come from chemistry departments, electronics, physics and optics and therefore the course provides some aspects that are foreign to them, far removed from their previous experience. Selection criteria are based on excellence, eventual benefit, motivation, and a letter of recommendation. Other considerations came into play such as maintaining a 50-50 male-female ratio, and limiting participation to three attendees per country. "We received some 60 outstanding applications and chose the 12 best. We expect that half will continue to become university professors or heads of research labs," says Salzman.

Salzman is in charge of the Zisapel Nanoelectronics and Wolfson Microelectronics complex. Two years ago, as head of the microelectronics research center, he resolved that the clean rooms would become a semi-independent unit, known as the MNFU (Micro Nano Fabrication Unit), with independent budget and management.

Nanotechnology, in Salzmann's view, represents a manufacturing revolution. "It is not merely a case of micro made smaller. Nano is all about innovation: new materials, methods, and approaches," he says.

"Nanotechnology represents a manufacturing revolution."

"I believe there is a Nano-Micro-Macro continuum," Salzman says. "Assuming you have some device or object which is the size of a few molecules - very, very small - and assuming you want to do something to it and measure this, you need contact with the external world. Even in the nano dimension you have to go through the micro scale for contact with the outside world."

Each morning the 12-day course started with a 2-hour lecture covering the theoretical background of that day's lab work. Then, participants rotated among three parallel lab sessions, instructed by Technion PhD students. Each of the many specialized machines in the MNFU facility represents a discipline in science. Topics included photolithography for small-scale patterning; carving with the etching apparatus; metallization; and oxidation. Altogether, the participants received 25 hours of frontal lectures and 40 hours hands-on in the clean room.

Participants included Felix Martinez, a postdoctoral scholar from Cartagena, a city on Spain's southern coast. "Technion is such a beautiful campus," he said. "The smell of the pine trees here reminds me of the Mediterranean." Other attendees came from Malaysia, Romania, Turkey, France, Italy, UK, and Germany.

The second ProMiNaS course, held in Rome in October 2007, addressed Single Electron Transistors and Photonic Crystals. Those participants who had previously attended the Technion course benefited from the basic skills they had gained in Clean Room work.

"With the diversity, capabilities, and brains we have in our academic institutions, we must continue this international collaboration to disseminate the interdisciplinary aspects of nanotechnology and to educate future engineers and researchers in the new emerging fields of high technology. It is our hope that others will follow this effort to materialize nanotechnology know-how," Salzman concluded.