updated: 2/1/2005 7:05:06 AM

Texas Instruments Donates Equipment to Purdue Nanotech Center

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University's Birck Nanotechnology Center has received donations of key equipment from Texas Instruments Inc.

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The list of equipment includes sophisticated tools for creating extremely small features in devices for research projects such as those aimed at developing new sensors, "biochips" for medical diagnostics and food safety, and tiny machines for a variety of purposes, said James Cooper, co-director of the Birck Center.

The five pieces of equipment, with an estimated value of $250,000 to $300,000, were previously used in Texas Instruments' processing line and were recently decommissioned. Tom Engibous, Texas Instruments' chairman and a Purdue alumnus, helped the university obtain the machines.

"I know this equipment will go a long way toward not only preparing students for jobs in industry but also turning innovation into new products," said Engibous, who earned a Purdue degree in electrical and computer engineering in 1976 and received an honorary doctorate in 1997.

One of the pieces of equipment, a Canon "optical stepper," uses ultraviolet light in a process called projection photolithography to create circuits and features as small as 250 nanometers, or billionths of a meter, in diameter.

"Only one or two universities in the country have steppers of this capability," Cooper said. "This tool will make Purdue one of the best-equipped university laboratories in the country."

Because ultraviolet light has a shorter wavelength than visible light, it can be used in photolithography to create smaller features.

Another major item donated by Texas Instruments is an "ion implanter." Ion implantation is used to "dope" semiconductors with impurities to precisely control the electrical conductivity in specific areas within an electronic chip. Atoms of certain elements, such as boron and phosphorous, are first turned into positively charged "ions" by stripping away an electron. The ions are then accelerated in an electric field and driven into the semiconductor where they are incorporated within the crystal lattice of the semiconductor material, changing its conductivity.

"It's like shooting tiny bullets into precisely controlled regions inside the semiconductor crystal," Cooper said. "By doing this, we can increase or decrease the conductivity in certain locations by a million times.

"We can make it highly conductive or highly insulating, depending on how many dopant atoms we put in. We can do that selectively, so that one area is conductive and the next area is non-conductive, and we use this capability to make devices inside chips."

The Birck Center was established in 2001 and has been operating within existing labs on campus. The new building in Discovery Park is expected to open in July. It is one of six centers in Discovery Park, Purdue's hub for interdisciplinary research located on State Street on the west edge of campus. The $58 million Birck Center, a three-floor, 187,000-square-foot facility, involves more than 120 faculty members from 25 schools and departments across the university. The center will provide some of the best laboratories in the world for nanotechnology research, including specialized low-vibration labs and a 25,000-square-foot "nanofabrication clean room."

The center is named for Michael and Katherine (Kay) Birck, of Hinsdale, Ill. The Bircks donated $30 million for the building. He is a Purdue alumnus, a member of the Purdue Board of Trustees and chairman of Tellabs Inc. Kay Birck, a Terre Haute, Ind. native, is head of nursing at Women's Healthcare of Hinsdale.

Source: Purdue University

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