Search This Blog

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Clean Room, Messy Brain!

Last post, I told you that we were working up lab stuffs for the Upward Bound nanocamp program. Well, in addition to that, I've found out that we are also supposed to test out lab procedures and do writeups for some other experiments. This is actually pretty exciting, because these labs are for the Prof's junior-year course in nanotechnology, and I expect I'll learn a lot more through them. One thing that you've got to check out is the scale of the operations we're talking about here. This applet from FSU is excellent if you want to get a clue about the sizes of things. (The graphic over on the right is viruses at 20,000 magnification - for this week, what you need to know is that you can't get this kind of image using visible light - you just can't!)

Anyway, I've spent time studying some of the labs that University of Wisconsin has built for nanotech education, and they're fairly amazing. Click this link if you want to explore nanotech - the science that's going on here is off the charts interesting. What was neat from a personal standpoint was that our Prof just told us to call up one of her friends at U. Wisc to ask for help - even though people are competitors in her field, it still definitely seems like friendly competition.
The lab we're working on next is this one - to demonstrate how to fabricate nanoparticles, and to show how light interacts with these particles depending on their size. Same as how the blue sky looks blue! OK, so just after we get all of the stuff written and tested for the nanocamp, we can really start to work on these. Whenever that is!

The Clean Room
Today we met Helen who is a project manager and professor at BU. I was so grateful to meet Helen because after spending over a week doing what felt like spinning my wheels, she led all of us on a FUN FIELD TRIP up the clean room. Not only that, despite the fact that Helen is clearly in charge of stuff, she was totally down to earth, and talked with us about her kids, her other research jobs, and the fact that we were elbowing people with real work to do out of the clean room this morning just so they could show us how it works. Like all the rooms and labs in this building, it's governed by key-card access. One look at the photo of my partner, Rick from Diamond Middle School in Lexington, myself and John Walsh from BC High, and you can see why they have key-cards on the place. I think we look like we're ready to go to work at Dunkin's.

Once we were in, and Helen explained what we were going to be doing, we went to the gowning area, where we put on booties, gloves, the gown and the hat they call the "bouffant." Painful. Five minutes later, we were ready for the clean room. Actually, not quite. We were headed for the CLEANER clean room. For this, we had to put on an extra set of high-top booties that came up to our knees, put on extra gloves and then add the stylish burka-like hat to finish off the ensemble. I think I look fantastic - what do you think?

This lab is where graduate students and others build very fine structures onto wafers. These structures could become electronic circuits, diffraction gratings, or, in the case of our group, a base full of nano-holes. What we did was to use a computer-aided machine made by Suss Microtec to write a mask using UV light onto a glass substrate. This is the first step to mass-producing stuff onto a silicon wafter, which we'll do later. Again, the idea is that you can use the short wavelength of UV to cut shapes with a lot of precision into stuff if you pick the materials right. Get it? UV is a smaller wave than blue or red, so it's good to use with small features, just like to see or do anything with the viruses in the top photo, you have to use even tinier waves, like X-rays or electron beams. You might have noticed the slight yellow tint to the right hand photo. Think about it: in a room where UV is used for cutting, you don't want any of those high energy (i.e. blue or purple) colors around. Thus, like you learn in Physics I, if you take away blue from white light, what you get is yellow.
And that seems like a fitting way to end this post, except to point out a few more of my colleagues: that's Helen being professional, Ashley Lagas, who will be rocking middle school in Holliston next year, and John Pinnozotto, who teaches physics in Weymouth, and has the best blog of any of us, by far. If you really want to know what the clean room looks like in detail, check John's blog - I've gotta pull nano-camp stuff together!!

No comments:

Post a Comment