Microfabrication Louisiana Technology Guide Article

Microsystems technology, describing a number of the fabrication techniques producing structures with micrometer-size lateral dimensions, has become an enabling technology to generate new sensor systems for applications as diverse as communication technologies, automotive technologies, medical technologies, and environmental, biological and chemical analysis. Microsystems technology is also one of the clusters in Gov. Mike Foster's Vision 2020 program. CAMD is providing the mission link between university research and industrial production in this field by offering a full range of services to its users and customers, enabling the effective use of its research tools.

CAMD has state-of-the-art infrastructure for LIGA microfabrication and supports customer projects in a number of different ways. A main goal of CAMD's service is to transform a customer's idea in a time- and cost-effective fashion with minimal active customer participation in the fabrication process.

CAMD is a high-tech synchrotron research center whose role is to provide equipment, expertise and infrastructure for research and development in the area of microfabrication, material science and analysis. Housed in a 45,000-square-foot building located on a 15-acre site approximately five miles from the LSU campus in Baton Rouge, CAMD hosts investigations on atomic and molecular structure and condensed-matter phenomena, microdevice fabrication, and the use of X-ray spectroscopy and microscopy and microscopy as analytical tools for material research, industry and the environment. The heart of the facility is a 1.5 GeV electron storage ring providing synchrotron radiation ranging from the infrared to the hard X-rays.

Research in basic science and microfabrication is conducted at CAMD by scientists and engineers from Louisiana universities, as well as distinguished scientists from national and international institutions. The key to CAMD's professional service is the in-depth knowledge and expertise of CAMD's staff, combined with the sophisticated infrastructure installed here over the last 10 years, representing a total facility value of approximately $50 million today.

In principle, synchroton radiation (SR) can be of use for industry in all areas of industrial activities, including:

  • Production
  • Quality Control
  • Research and Development

CAMD offers opportunities in all three areas, with a strong focus on analytical service within R&D and "production" of MEMS devices using the LIGA technique. CAMD, utilizing its experience, is prepared to collaborate with industry by providing competent support, clear results ( in most cases quantitative), confidentiality of work and results (together with clear arrangements regarding intellectual property), short turnaround times and competitive prices.

The analytical techniques available at CADM for industrial applications can be grouped according to the "information depths" they provide:

  • Long-range order (mainly single crystals). CAMD has a dedicated beam line for protein crystallography.
  • Medium-range order (10-500 microns). CAMD can offer investigations using microtomography and (in the very near future) small angle scattering.
  • Short-range order(atomic scale and up to about 10 microns).

Along with offering simple and inexpensive access to the facility's beam lines and infrastructure, CAMD also offers industrial clients a 100% Analytical Service, consisting of the following six steps:

  • Discussion of the problem and develpemnt of an experimental "statergy" to solve it.
  • Preparation of the samples for the actual measurements.
  • Measuring of the samples and suitable reference compounds.
  • Analysis of the data and interpretation of the results considering the actual problem.
  • Preparation of a written report with further recommendations.
  • Sending the report.

Techniques available at CAMD include IR-spectroscopy (in the near future), photoelectron spectroscopy and X-ray absorption spectroscopy. The last mentioned technique allows in-situ and time-resolved investigation of processes relevant to the chemical industry.

In the are of microfabrication, CAMD's infrastructure includes a total of four microfabrication beam lines equipped with state-of-the-art scanners, as well as 200 square meters of class 100 clean room facilities, offering access to all the major microfabrication processed and metrology tools needed for the processing of microstructures.

Utilizing the infrastructure to the benefit of the State of Louisiana is one of CAMD's primary missions. A first step toward commercialization in the area of microfabrication is the close relationship between CAMD and Mezzo Systems, a recently founded start-up company. Mezzo Systems has received a number of SBIR (Small Business Innovative Research) grants and is an example of how to successfully combine advanced technology with a network of public and private collaborations to generate innovative products for the future of Louisiana. As Josef Hormes, the director of CAMD, and Andrew McCandless, president of Mezzo Systems, put it, Mezzo needs CAMD to access the technology and fabrication of microstructures without the burden of million-dollar investments, and CAMD needs companies like Mezzo demonstrating the market potential and showing the way for other partners to utilize and benefit from the existing expertise.

Another important aspect of CAMD's operation is the education and training of highly skilled work force. While today these students often have to leave Louisiana due to lack of industry requiring their expertise, future collaboration between CAMD and industry within the state has the potential to grow new business opportunities and create well-paid jobs for well-educated students. These industries, in return, will better utilize the resources already available in the state, allowing Louisiana to better achieve the goals of Vision 2020.