Materials Processing Center/Microphotonics Center

This report discusses the FY2003 activities of the Materials Processing Center (MPC) and one of its major affiliates, the Microphotonics Center (MPhC). The Materials Processing Center is an interdisciplinary center within the School of Engineering. Currently directed by Professor Lionel C. Kimerling of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE), the MPC was established in 1980 in response to a recognized national need to improve the materials processing knowledge base and streamline technology transfer within the materials science and engineering field. Materials science traverses all the physical sciences. The MPC defines "materials processing" broadly, covering a wide range of materials types and crossing traditional departmental boundaries.

The mission of the MPC is to facilitate relationships among researchers from academia and industry, enabling them to collaborate on pivotal issues in materials science. We wish to create new knowledge, produce knowledgeable and capable graduates/employees, and promote the exchange of knowledge in the service of our country and in the context of the global community. The MPC is a "virtual center," without facilities, laboratory space, or equipment per se; it acts by bringing people and resources together in "intellectual space" to examine problems from a science-to-systems perspective.

The Microphotonics Center is a center within the MPC that builds interdisciplinary teams focused on advancing basic science and emerging technology to enable the evolution of photonics from single, discrete devices to strongly integrated photonic systems. The MPhC and MPC share one staff in a common headquarters office.


The MPC/MPhC builds relationships with faculty by familiarizing itself with their current research projects, future interests, and resource needs; by bringing industries' materials needs and interests to them; and by inviting them individually or in teams to collaborate with industry. MPC provides some seed funding to new faculty members and teams and assists with proposals and the administration of research accounts. During FY2003, there were 55 faculty and senior research staff with active accounts in the MPC; there were 79 who chose to be included in the MPC's research digest, Materials Research at MIT. The faculty who have had some affiliation with the MPC over the years now number over 200 and hail from nine departments from the Schools of Engineering and Science.

The MPC provides industry with guided access to MIT's materials research community via its Industry Collegium (MPC) and Industry Consortium (MPhC). The MPC Industry Collegium is made up of over 40 domestic and international companies in a range of industries, from traditional structural materials to biomaterials. In FY2003, the MPhC Industry Consortium had 13 member companies from the telecommunications sector; the consortium's Communications Technology Roadmap Project involves personnel from 25 telecom-related companies in its Technology Working Groups. For member companies, both the collegium and the consortium help to enable the realization of groundbreaking MIT research into market-changing products. The MPC/MPhC strategy includes leveraging core federal research funding into expanded industrial-academic collaborations. In addition to its collegium and consortium, the MPC and MPhC also have three major research alliance partnerships, as well as traditional programs with individual companies.

The MPC seeks to collaborate with other materials-related centers on campus, including the Center for Materials Science and Engineering (CMSE), the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnology (ISN), the Research Laboratory for Electronics, the Microsystems Technology Laboratory (MTL), and the Media Lab. Campus materials research volume across MPC, CMSE, ISN, and DMSE has steadily increased each year since CY1999, reaching an expected $35 million for CY2003. Over 50 percent of this research was in the area of electronic/photonic/magnetic materials in CY2002.

return to top


Research Activities

MPC and MPhC total research volume was $12.1 million in FY2003. The MPC/MPhC staff during the year numbered eight, including director Professor Lionel Kimerling. During much of FY2003, the MPC continued to focus on the development of MPhC projects.

Detailed summaries of research by MPC-affiliated faculty can be found in the 2002 edition of Materials Research at MIT, available in electronic format on our web site.

One particular focal area for Microphotonics Center research is in new materials, structures, and architectures for planar lightwave circuits. The goal is fully integrated photonic functionality for these tiny, potentially low-cost units, thereby enabling their deployment in metropolitan area and fiber-to-the-X applications. Our areas of emphasis include dense wavelength-division multiplexing (a way of increasing signal capacity), optical signal conditioning, and on-chip optical clock distribution and input/output for microprocessors. Our research has set a number of world records for device performance and size. The Microphotonics Center has several major research thrusts, in addition to individual faculty members' research. Within the Industry Consortium there are the Communications Technology Roadmap Project and four consortium-funded seed projects. In addition, in FY2003 the MPhC had three major programs with research alliance partners Pirelli, Walsin-Lihwa, and Analog Devices. These three programs generated 18 new pieces of IP in FY2003. IP disclosures have grown considerably; while MPhC faculty had 315 disclosures to the Technology Licensing Office from January 1996 to March 2002, they had 92 disclosures from March 2002 to March 2003 alone.

The Microphotonics Center Industry Consortium (see below) began its key initiative, the Communications Technology Roadmap Project (, in the fall of 2000. This ongoing study will give a 10-year view down the rapidly changing microphotonics technology highway by interviewing industry leaders at all levels of management and developing a picture of areas of consensus and conflicting opinion on how technology and business issues will play out. Consortium members will use the study findings in optical network architecture, component design and manufacturing, market analysis, technical supply chain analysis, and geographic analysis to focus their R&D and business strategies. The Communications Technology Roadmap (CTR) Project is chaired by Professors Charles Fine (Sloan School) and Rajeev Ram (EECS); Elizabeth Bruce is program manager. The CTR working group presented interim reports to consortium members at the November 2002 and May 2003 meetings, and it has made a number of white papers and reports available online to Industry Consortium member companies. The CTR group also established five Technology Working Groups (TWGs), with a total of 47 participants from MIT and 25 companies from start-ups to industry leaders in the telecom industry. TWGs bring together the thought leaders in particular areas of expertise from both industry and academia to discuss technology evolution in those areas. These groups each had meetings both at MIT and at company sites and produced reports on their findings. The subject areas for the TWGs are low-cost transceiver technology, organics technology, optoelectronic integration in Si, optoelectronic integration in III-V materials, and hybrid integration.

Education Activities

One pillar of the MPC is the education of the next generation of materials processing research scientists, engineers, and leaders. To this end, the MPC initiates programs to enhance the intellectual vitality of the materials processing community at MIT. We measure the value of these programs by the breadth of the materials arena they address, by the new and creative collaborations among faculty and students they catalyze, and by the degree of attention to the multidisciplinary—but at the same time fundamental—nature of the materials science, engineering, and processing they generate.


We are increasingly archiving seminars, with the speakers' assistance, on our web site in the form of a PowerPoint presentation plus audio track. In this way we hope to capture our seminars as an ongoing information resource to the community.

Materials Unlimited Seminar Series

Now in its fifth year, the Materials Unlimited Seminar Series highlights the research of senior graduate students identified by faculty members as being among the best in MIT materials-related research. This seminar includes a half-hour talk by the featured graduate student, followed by a half-hour panel discussion. Panelists are drawn from MIT and other university faculty, as well as from companies appropriate to the topic. Seminars are well attended by a diverse audience of faculty, postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduates.

FY2003 featured three talks. Jeri-Ann Hiller (DMSE) spoke on "Polyelectrolyte Multilayers: Designing Stimuli-Responsive Platforms for Tunable Opto-Electronic and Biomaterial Applications." Professors Michael Rubner (DMSE) and Robert Cohen (ChemE) and Dr. Lynn Winterton (CibaVision) served as panelists for her talk. Augustine Urbas (DMSE) gave his talk on "Block Copolymer Photonic Crystals," with Professors Edwin Thomas (DMSE), Yoel Fink (DMSE), and Vladimir Bulovic (EECS) as panelists. For Yu-Ming Lin's talk, "Are Nano-Coolers Cooler? Nano-Coolers Based on Bismuth Nanowires and their Properties," Professors Mildred Dresselhaus (EECS) and Gang Chen (MechE) and Dr. Joseph Heremanns (Delphi Automotive) served as panelists.

Microphotonics Seminar Series

The MPhC sponsors a weekly seminar series on topics of interest to those doing research on microphotonics-related subjects. A list of topics plus abstracts can be found via our web site.

Materials Day

Materials Day is generally a yearly event, usually in the fall, that celebrates the MIT materials research community. It features a daylong workshop on a "breaking news" topic, followed by a graduate/postdoc poster session and dinner for participants. The next Materials Day is scheduled for October 28, 2003, and will cover the topic of materials in medicine.

Summer Research Internship Program

The MPC and the Center for Materials Science and Engineering cosponsor the MPC–CMSE Summer Research Internship Program. This 10-week program brings outstanding juniors and seniors in science or engineering majors from academic institutions around the United States to MIT to work in the laboratories of participating faculty. Summer 2002 brought 20 students attending from schools as far-flung as Yeshiva University, the University of Puerto Rico, the University of Wisconsin, and Worcester Polytechnic. These students worked with faculty from ChemE, MechE, DMSE, the Active Materials and Structures Lab, and the Magnet Lab on a wide variety of projects. The Summer 2003 session, just begun at the time of this report, has brought 15 students to MIT.


The MPC also supports the MIT Solar Car Team with a $5,000 grant. See for information about this student organization.

Outreach Activities

The second pillar of the MPC is its outreach to new (either to MIT or to the MPC) faculty and researchers, as well as to the global materials community. MPC has a dozen visiting scientists from industry working within the center. The center is proactive in inviting faculty to participate in its activities, whether through our publications, educational programs, or research sponsorship.


The MPC Industry Collegium maintained its size and full complement of activities while simultaneously maintaining the industrial support base of the Microphotonics Center in a weak economy. Collegium membership currently exceeds 40 companies, domestic and international. We added two new collegium members during 2002–2003. At the same time, we maintained our MPhC Industry Consortium membership at 13 companies and initiated activities with a dozen other companies through the MPhC's Communications Technology Roadmap Project. The MPhC also maintained its relationship with the sponsors of its three major research programs: Walsin-Lihwa, Pirelli, and Analog Devices.


The MPC/MPhC has added the following new members to its affiliated faculty pool: Angela Belcher (DMSE), Randolph Kirchain (DMSE), Christopher Schuh (DMSE), Eric Hudson (Physics), Francesco Stellacci (DMSE) and Young Lee (Physics).

Information Management

The MPC produces several publications, brochures, conference booklets, and three web sites in pursuit of its outreach goals. Distribution for the main publications includes more than 200 MPC-affiliated MIT faculty and staff members and more than 400 members of the MPC Industry Collegium mailing list. One publication, Materials Research at MIT, is a digest of materials research performed at MIT by MPC-affiliated faculty and others during the previous calendar year. It provides a short summary of each project being researched by faculty members, along with a list of their personnel and publications. Materials Research at MIT 2002 provided the reports of 77 faculty members. The 2002 research digest was issued in both print and electronic (web, and new this year, a searchable CD-ROM) formats. The 2003 research digest, produced together with the Center for Materials Science and Engineering with input from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, will be produced in CD-ROM format only, in addition to web distribution. Information from our research digest is used by CMSE in its NSF reporting responsibilities, DMSE in its recruitment and placement of new graduate students, and by the Industrial Liaison Program for its KnowledgeBase database.

The MPC's newsletter, the Industry Collegium Report, is in the process of transitioning to a primarily web or web-only format. During FY2003 we have planned, and in FY2004 we will execute, extensive revamping of our web site's appearance and functionality. The web is currently our main mode of information distribution to our MPhC Industry Consortium members, particularly for the CTR Project.

Equipment and Facilities

Industry partners have supported the MPhC with $5.5 million in equipment acquisitions. We are actively supporting the Capital Campaign in a major effort to secure support for dedicated space for this equipment. Over FY2003 we continued to seek both distributed "migration" space and work with MIT Facilities personnel on construction of facilities for this equipment. We have commenced work jointly with CMSE and DMSE to renovate lab space to create a new chemical vapor deposition (CVD) echo planar imaging lab with a metal-organic CVD instrument, ultrahigh vacuum CVD, and reactive-ion beam deposition tool. We anticipate that this equipment will be brought online in 2004. We have successfully installed and brought online our Applied Materials Centura dielectric plasma-enhanced CVD tool in the Microsystems Technology Laboratory's Room 39-ICL.


The MPC/MPhC is expanding its collaborations with other materials-related centers across the campus to help make some sense of the current maze of possibilities an outside visitor faces when he or she approaches MIT with a materials problem. In addition, our moving closer to other centers, particularly CMSE, will create synergies both intellectually and administratively. Our strategy is to improve our position as an information resource for the campus community and for consortium/collegium member companies. Meanwhile, with our program sponsors and research alliance partners, we face the ongoing challenges of program and intellectual property management and are developing the tools and processes for meeting these challenges. We consider our key value to be the building of interdisciplinary faculty teams to develop new areas for intellectual activity and research.

For more information about the Materials Processing Center, please see our web site, indicated below. Links to the Microphotonics Center web site and the dedicated Communications Technology Roadmap Project web site can be found at the main MPC site.

Lionel Kimerling
Thomas Lord Professor of Materials Science and Engineering

More information about the Materials Processing and Microphotonics Centers can be found on the web at


return to top
Table of Contents