The University of Texas at Arlington is home to one of the nation’s most advanced university-based nanotechnology development, research, and teaching facilities. UT Arlington’s Nanotechnology Research & Education Center (NanoFab) is an interdisciplinary resource facility operating a constellation laboratories, outfitted with equipment required for working in the micrometer and nanometer dimensions. The NanoFab is open to scientists on UTA’s faculty, as well as graduate students, outside researchers from other universities, and qualified members of the private sector.
NanoFab research activities are conducted through mutually-beneficial associations of chemistry, electrical engineering, mechanical and aerospace engineering, materials science and physics faculty, graduate students and research assistants at UTA, which has a student body of some 33,450 and more than 2,200 faculty members, as well as in collaborative efforts with investigators at other universities and private sector participants in nanotech research such as as IBM and Texas Instruments, thus providing a substantial boost to Arlington’s economy as well as contributing to the advance of scientific knowledge in the nanotechnology field.
The NanoFab Research & Education Center’s marquee facility is a 10,000-square-foot clean room, supported by a 4,800-square-foot area on the second level devoted to eight additional measurement laboratories with complete instrumentation devoted to work on the smallest of scales.
The UT Arlington Nanotechnology Research and Teaching Facility’s director, Dr. Zeynep Celik-Butler, Ph. D. is both a professor of Electrical Engineering with the UT Arlington College of Engineering, and a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Dr.Celik-Butler’s own areas of research are in noise and reliability in electronic devices, high-k dielectrics, sensors and detectors on flexible substrates for “smart skin,” and wafer-level packaging.
In 2011, Dr. Celik-Butler was honored with her IEEE fellowship for her contributions to the understanding of noise and fluctuation phenomena in solid-state devices – unwanted variations that can cause instability in the transmitted signal from one nanoelectronic device to another, such as the memory and processing devices inside computers or cell phones.
“I’m humbled by being named an IEEE Fellow,” Celik-Butler said in a release. “What’s especially gratifying about the award is that you are selected and evaluated by your peers. That’s the highest praise in our field.”
Only 321 individuals were elevated to IEEE Fellow in 2011, and Dr. Celik-Butler was one of 10 from Texas. “Dr. Celik-Butler’s work in this area is unparalleled,” commented Ron Elsenbaumer, provost and vice president of academic affairs for The University of Texas at Arlington. “Her findings have been used by other researchers and industry in the field of nanoelectronics.”
Besides the noise and fluctuation research, Dr. Celik-Butler also has made contributions in microelectromechanical systems, developing “smart skin,” which is an array of different kinds of sensors integrated onto a bendable backbone for aerospace, defense and medical applications.
A team of UT Arlington researchers funded by the National Science Foundation is also working to find ways to minimize heat generated by microdevices and to developing nano-windows that will allow the heat to dissipate before it damages the chip. Dr. Ankur Jain, a UT Arlington assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, is working with colleagues Dr. Dereje Agonafer, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Dr. Roger Schmidt, IBM fellow and chief engineer, on the project.
Dr. Jain’s research interests focus around experimental and theoretical study of microscale physical phenomena such as microscale heat transfer, microscale energy conversion and microfluidics. He is interested in controlling and manipulating biological microsystems such as cells, DNA, etc. He also has interests in microscale energy conversion. Dr. Jain is also pursuing research on thermal modeling and thermal-electrical optimization of advanced semiconductor technologies such as three-dimensional integrated circuits (3D ICs).
Dr. Dereje Agonafer is a former IBM scientist who joined the University of Texas at Arlington in 1999 as Professor and Director of Electronics, MEMS, and Nanoelectronics Systems Packaging Center (http://emnspc.uta.edu). Dr Agonafer’s research at the UT Arlington center is multidisciplinary and focuses on a variety of research related to thermo/mechanical issues in Microelectronics, MEMS and Nanoelectronics with broad applications including computers, telecommunications and bio-fluidics
“There is only a very limited amount of space available on an integrated circuit so we’ve had to build vertically, placing wafers on top of wafers,” Jain says in a UTA release. “These 3D integrated circuits have led to significant performance improvements. However, when we stack these circuits on top of each other, heat starts to become a problem. All the heat being generated in this multi-layer stack needs to be removed, otherwise it causes deterioration in performance.”
Dr. Agonafer said the team will investigate and measure fundamental thermal transport and thermomechanical properties of materials and interfaces in 3D integrated circuit technology. The team also will look at Through-Silicon Vias, or TSVs – high-performance wires that allow integrated circuits to talk to each other and pass instructions from one level to the next. Drs. Jain and Agonafer believe the cooling effects will boost the efficiency and speed of the 3D integrated circuits as well.
Dr. Roger Schmidt is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of electronic cooling and data center thermal management, with more than 100 patents (granted or pending) in those areas, and who has made sustained contributions in cooling IBM’s supercomputers, high performance servers, client/servers, parallel processors and test equipment through the innovative use of air, water and refrigerants. He is IBM’s Chief Engineer for Data Center Energy Efficiency, and commented that UT Arlington is one of the many academic partners IBM works with to find solutions for tomorrow’s computing needs. “Cooling chips has come a long way in recent years, but the financial savings can be enormous,” Dr. Schmidt said. “Reducing heat just a little can translate to millions of dollars in savings down the road. Plus, typically solving the heat problem also yields faster, more reliable and more powerful computing.”
Jean-Pierre Bardet, dean of the UT Arlington College of Engineering, noted that the microdevices cooling research project demonstrates the important role that a research institution like the NanoFab can play in partnering with industry leaders, such as IBM, and that UT Arlington is pleased to be partnering with a worldwide innovator in research that will improve technology we have all come to depend upon.