Nanotechnology Core Facility

The Nanotechnology Core Facility (NCF), located in the Engineering Research Facility (ERF) building on the University of Illinois at Chicago campus, is a versatile MEMS/Nano facility and is accessible to both academic non-profit and industrial researchers.

The NCF enables research by providing access, training, service and process guidance on fabrication and characterization equipment. As a research and development laboratory, NCF is dedicated to application of integrated circuit and fiber optic technology to improve manufacturing methods for MEMS/Nano devices, BioMEMS, Microfluidic, Electromechanical, Mechanical, Chemical, Optical, Photonic and multi-functional devices, some of which have previously been built by more traditional techniques.

Equipment is available for: Photolithography, Thin Film Deposition (metals, semiconductors, and dielectrics) and etching, sample characterization (electrical, optical, and surface), dicing and lead attachment, and Computer Aided Design (CAD) workstations.

We are a research and development laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago. It is dedicated to the application of ‘chip making’ technology to improve manufacturing methods for electromechanical, mechanical, chemical, optical and multi-functional devices which are currently being produced with less efficient techniques. The Laboratory is located on the University of Illinois Chicago campus, just west of Chicago’s Loop. The NCF staff consists of 22 experienced researchers who are also faculty members at UIC or UIUC, a full-time laboratory manager, and graduate students to assist in training new users. The laboratory consists of a three thousand square foot clean room subdivided into five bays and an equal device characterization area. Over two and a half million dollars of equipment is installed in the UIC clean rooms. Approximately one and a half million dollars of that amount has been used to acquire new equipment at the cutting edge of microfabrication technology. Unlike highly automated industrial production equipment, equipment within the Center is flexible and multipurpose in function. Cleanroom equipment has been carefully chosen to provide strong capability within the thrust areas of BioMEMS, High-Frequency MEMS, MEMS Process Analysis and Development, Microactuators/Microfluidics, and Microsensors/Miniature Analytical Instruments. The clean room is divided into five bays to provide workspace for various functions including physical vapor deposition (PVD), chemical vapor deposition (CVD), plasma enhanced CVD (PECVD), wet and dry etching, surface characterization, and top and bottom lithography.

The lithography capabilities include both a Raith 150 Electron Beam System as well as a Nanoscribe 3D Laser System for direct feature writing at the nanometer level.  Standard positive and negative photoresist lithography equipment are available. The NFC has both a Karl Suss MA6/BA6 and a MJB3 Infrared aligner for ‘top to bottom’ alignment of masks to silicon wafers. This capability is especially useful when making sensors, membranes, and three-dimensional structures. NFC users have limited access to an OAI Infrared aligner which can expose 4″ wafers in the EECS Undergraduate clean room.

The PVD capabilities include a Varian multi-source e-beam system with rotating planetaries for 2″, 3″, and 4″ wafers; and a CVC system with 2 e-beam guns, 2 US sputtering guns, a thermal source, and ion beam cleaning of the substrate.

The LPCVD area consists of a refurbished four-stack furnace made by Process Technology configured for silicon nitride, LTO, polysilicon, and metal CVD. An important feature of the LPCVD system is that variable stoichiometry films may be produced for optical waveguides. The plasma enhanced CVD capabilities are provided by a Trion deposition station with load-lock under computer control, which can provide films of silicon nitride, silicon dioxide, silicon oxynitride, diamond like diamond structure carbon and silicon carbide. There also is a four stack Brooks furnace for wet/dry Si wafer oxidation and diffusion.

The wet chemical etching facilities are comprehensive, consisting of an assortment of anisotropic, isotropic and electrochemical etching equipment for semiconductors, metals and dielectrics. Modutek’s KOH Silicon Etch Tank is designed to decrease impurities, and unwanted byproducts due to advanced welding techniques with PFA sheet material. A few notable design features include the following: manual cover with overlapping seal which minimizes water lost and no concentration deficiencies over long etch time.

Plasma etching includes deep reactive ion etching in an Oxford PlasmaLab 100 System employing the Bosch process for both 3 and 4 inch silicon wafer etching as well as reactive ion etching and sputter etching in a Trion RIE/ICP-RIE with both load-lock and computer control with six mass flow controllers to provide a versatile array of gas compositions. A host of ‘standard’ etching recipes utilized regularly by the semiconductor industry and experimental recipes for non-standard materials will be employed.  A Harrick Barrel Plasma System is available for both plasma cleaning, descumming, and etching.

The inspection and characterization equipment include: a Zeiss optical microscope with large monitor HD video display and line measurement system, Nikon optical microscope with a Boeckler line measurement system, a KLA-Tencor P7 surface step profiler, a Gaertner ellipsometer, a Bruker-Nano Dimension Icon Atomic Force Microscope with both mechanical, electrical and electrochemical capabilities, a Digital Instruments Nanoscope III Scanning Tunneling and Atomic Force Microscope with Electrochemical capability, and a Bruker-Nano Contour GT-K Optical profiler. The Tencor P7 provides large area surface topography measurements, with nanometer resolution over scans of several centimeters. This device is extremely valuable in characterizing the geometry of micro-machined structures to an accuracy of about 5 nm. The Bruker Contour provides soft film non-contact surface topography measurements at the same accuracy.

In the NCF Packaging Laboratory (class 100,000), there are additional material characterization equipment including a Bruker Discover 8 XRD system, a Sonoscan Gen6 Surface Acoustic Scanning Microscope, a Malvern Dynamic Laser Scattering system and both TA Instruments’ Differential Scanning Calorimeter and  Thermo-Gravimetric Analyzer. For most packaging applications, equipment includes a Disco wafer saw with superior 6 inch wafer and surface video capabilities, a Microautomation 4 inch wafer saw, both a West Bond ball and a wedge wire bonder, and a Modular Process Technology Rapid Thermal Wafer Processor. There are two Parylene coating systems for both N and C as well as a Thermionics VE-100 E-beam/thermal Vacuum Evaporator for esoteric materials deposition.  Surface etching and modifications are accomplished with a Tykma Laser Marking system with computer control software. Specialty microscopes include a Keyence VHX6000 with both low and high magnification tube lens systems and adjustable viewing angle.


The primary function of the NCF is to provide R&D expertise and service support to the research efforts of both University faculty and external commercial companies in the wide-ranging areas of MEMS/NEMS, electronic and photonic material device design and fabrication, using all aspects of photolithography, deposition by electron beam, DC/RF sputtering, and plasma systems as well as low-pressure chemical vapor deposition, deep reactive ion material etching and wafer thermal oxidation.  The NTC also provides instrument training on the systems above as well as most film characterization techniques including XRD, SEM, AFM, Optical Profilometry, Step Profilometry, Ellipsometry, Dynamic Laser Scattering, Thermogravimetric Analysis, Differential Scanning Calorimetry, Rapid Thermal Processing and Scanning Acoustical Microscopy. Rudimentary device packaging services such as laser marking, wafer saw cutting and wire bonding can be provided by request.