Microsystems Technology Laboratories

The Microsystems Technology Laboratories (MTL) conduct research and education with an intellectual core of Semiconductor Industry Process and Device Technology, and Integrated Circuits and Systems Design. MTL also leverages its infrastructure to foster new initiatives at the Institute and to support the general microfabrication needs of MIT.

The MTL carries out graduate and undergraduate research activities in circuits and systems that are built using microsystems technology for applications, such as wireless sensing networks and intelligent vision systems. Additionally, researchers are investigating the fabrication and study of small (i.e., micrometer to nanometer) structures and their use for the implementation of interesting integrated devices from nanometer-scale electronic devices to optical switches to displays to biosensors to microturbine engines. The MTL facilities include laboratory space for electronics test and assembly, computation and communication, and microfabrication. The MTL microfabrication facilities include three clean rooms: the state-of-the-art class-10 Integrated Circuits Laboratory (ICL), the flexible process environment Technology Research Laboratory (TRL), and the Exploratory Materials Laboratory (EML). In AY2001, the MTL fabrication facilities were utilized by approximately 350 students and staff. The laboratory manages a contract research volume of approximately $7M per year. In addition, approximately $25M of contract research (managed in other departments/labs/centers) supporting 40 faculty and senior research staff utilizes the MTL facilities as an integral part of their research. The fabrication and computation facilities of the MTL are maintained and operated by a full time technical staff of 21 technicians and engineers.

Beyond the research programs, the MTL support several educational initiatives that leverage the research infrastructure of the labs. Chief amongst these is the undergraduate microfabrication laboratory, a lecture/laboratory course in which 120 students/year are afforded the opportunity to microfabricate an electronic device in the state-of-the-art MTL facilities. Additionally, we offer a project laboratory for team-based design of microfabricated structures. The Technology Demonstration Laboratory, developed by Professor Sodini, is housed in MTL and provides Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) MEng students the chance to work on thesis topics with a technology integration and demonstration focus. Lastly, via the I-Campus Initiative, Professor del Alamo is developing a series of web-based laboratory tools that permit testing of microfabricated structures.

MTL maintains a strong and vibrant interaction with industries that value not only the research output, but also the students that are educated in state-of-the-art microsystems technology. The MTL facilities are supported in part by industry through the MIT Microsystems Industrial Group (MIG), whose current members include: Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Analog Devices, Applied Materials, Compaq, IBM, Intel Corporation, Agere, Motorola, Inc. Novellus Systems, Texas Instruments, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (TSMC), as well as members of the Microsystems Affiliates Program whose members are Kokusai/BTI Corporation and Sony Corporation. Three industry-funded centers are also housed in the MTL: the Center for Integrated Circuits and Systems (CICS), and the Intelligent Transportation Research Center (ITRC), and the newly-formed MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS) @ MIT.


We have nearly completed the $12M renovation of the cleanroom facilities and equipment to upgrade to 6" wafer capability. This upgrade will be completed by September.

A new epitaxial growth laboratory was established by Professor Judy Hoyt. The laboratory features a state-of-the-art Applied Materials Epi-Centura system, which was obtained through a combination of a National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation Program (NSF MRI) award and a significant donation from Applied Materials. The cost of this laboratory, including the equipment is in excess of $2.5M. This laboratory will enable research into advanced silicon-based materials and devices. We anticipate the laboratory to be operational within the next few months.

Three significant research contracts were awarded this year by the Microelectronics Advanced Research Corporation (MARCO) to investigators in MTL. These three multi-university collaborations focus on research in Interconnects, Materials, Circuits and Devices, and Circuits, Systems and Software. MARCO was established by an industrial consortium to fund long range research of interest to the semiconductor industry. These contracts will represent a significant growth of the research activity in MTL.

A thorough evaluation of the MTL cleanroom operations was conducted by a student/faculty/staff committee chaired by Professor Jesus del Alamo (The Class 1 Committee). The goal of the committee was to make recommendations for how to improve the operations. The committee has concluded its work and the report has been carefully evaluated. We have begun to implement changes based upon the committee's report and will continue to implement the recommendations.

Considerable effort was expended in the past year to address overlap in microfabrication needs between MTL and the recently formed Microphotonics Center. Many opportunities exist for sharing of resources and leveraging existing infrastructure and we will continue to work in cooperation to identify these opportunities.

A new center, MEMS @ MIT, was formed this year. The intent of the center is to generate industrial support for shared microfabrication, design, and test infrastructure that benefit the 20 faculty at MIT that conduct MEMS research using the MTL facilities. The center, which will be managed as a center in MTL, is currently soliciting members. Industrial participation in this center is intended to compliment the industrial engagements which currently exist in MTL (MIG, CICS, and ITRC).

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Future Plans

The MTL research and education initiatives have expanded by approximately 10 fold in the past 15 years without a significant growth in the space allocation to the laboratory. This has created intense pressure on the researchers in the laboratory and has forced us to continuously work to optimize the use of space in the laboratory. It is clear that the primary limitation on growth of the laboratory into logical new research areas is paced by the availability of space to accommodate this growth, and funding to support the shared infrastructure. As part of our strategic planning process, we have identified four primary initiatives. First, we want to maintain a pre-eminent micro/nanofabrication infrastructure for the Institute. Second, we want to foster new initiatives at the Institute that leverage this infrastructure. Third, we want to promote interactions between the circuits/systems community and the micro/nanofabrication community in MTL. Fourth, we want to develop a more diversified funding structure to support the MTL infrastructure. As part of this plan, we have some immediate actions as detailed below.

We will complete the 6" upgrade of the laboratories shortly, after which a complete characterization of these new tools will be conducted.

We will implement the important recommendations of the Class 1 Committee, which primarily require additional industrial revenue for infrastructure, acquisition of space, and hiring of more technical support personnel in key areas. We anticipate a need for approximately $1–$1.5M per year in additional investment in the cleanroom operations. These investments will be made in new personnel, primarily to support equipment repair and training. Additionally, we will look to service contracts on key equipment.

We will begin a concerted effort to recruit new membership in the MIG in support of the Class 1 needs.

We will conclude the launch of the MEMS @ MIT Center by securing an initial roster of member companies. The revenues from the MEMS @ MIT Center will support many things, including the microfabrication infrastructure.

We will continue to explore mechanisms to produce intellectually vibrant links between the two primary research constituents of the lab: the Circuits and Systems design community and the Micro/Nanofabrication community.

Martin A. Schmidt

More information about the Microsystems Technology Laboratories can be found online at http://www-mtl.mit.edu/.

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