Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, an independent, research-driven graduate-level university focused on advanced energy and sustainable technologies, announced its research staff have etched a silicon wafer for the first time in the UAE, marking the beginning of a new phase in advanced technology learning and innovation.
With the etching of silicon wafer, the Masdar Institute Fabrication Facility has entered the operational phase. Etching is used in micro-fabrication to chemically remove layers from the surface of a wafer during manufacturing. The Facility achieved Deep Reactive Ion Etching (DRIE) through the Bosch process, which also enables the use of silicon mechanical components in high-end wristwatches.
DRIE was developed for micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS), which is also used for high-density capacitors for direct random access memory (DRAM). More recently they are used for creating through silicon via's (TSVs) in advanced 3D wafer level packaging technology. TSV interconnects are emerging to serve a wide range of 3D packaging applications.
MEMS devices can be made using silicon wafers and the manufacturing process can incorporate semiconductor manufacturing processes such as sputtering, deposition, etching and lithography. Some of the MEMS devices that can be mentioned include smartphones, tablets, game controllers, notebooks, digital cameras and health/fitness apps.
The technology also enables functionalities such as augmented reality applications, indoor navigation, immersive video-gaming, heart rate/blood pressure monitoring, e-reader displays, and improved voice communications.
With such additional functionalities, the industry portends a promising future. According to market research firm Global Information Inc (GII), the 'bioMEMS' market alone is expected to grow from $1.9bn in 2012 to $6.6bn in 2018. The benefits of growing MEMS applications include innovations, revolution and growth in the personal healthcare market including wireless implants, as well as rising awareness and affordability of healthcare.
Dr Fred Moavenzadeh said, "The technology feat established by our Fabrication Facility reflects the cutting-edge facilities available with Masdar Institute to drive scientific innovation. This silicon etching means a world class research facility is now available in Abu Dhabi with some of the brightest faculty and researchers from around the world to work with Emirati and international students. The wise leadership of the UAE continues to support our research activities and we are confident Masdar Institute will achieve many more milestones in advanced and sustainable technology areas."
Mike Tiner, Manager, Fabrication and Microscopy Facilities, said, "Masdar Institute, Abu Dhabi and the UAE are well on their way to participating in an exciting technological revolution. This simple wafer, etched in a lab in Masdar Institute, represents the day that we made a significant step for the UAE to take its rightful place among those countries producing innovation for the world to share. The Fabrication Facility at Masdar Institute is a place for Emirati researchers, in their own country, that will encourage and support their contribution to this new and important scientific endeavor."
Dr. Ibrahim Elfadel, Professor - Microsystems Engineering, is leading a multi-program project on three-dimensional microelectronic circuit integration in collaboration with the Technical University of Dresden in Germany. 3D integration is an important research area at the Masdar Institute that will benefit from the deployment of DRIE technology.
Dr. Ibrahim Elfadel said, "This step taken by Masdar Institute's Micro Fabrication staff in successfully commissioning and testing the DRIE tool, materials, and process in Masdar Institute's own clean room is very significant. The hands-on learning will have direct bearing on several programs at the Institute, such as Microsystems Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Materials Science and Engineering programs. It will also provide students and faculty involved in semiconductor research and manufacturing first-hand knowledge of the etching process. Masdar Institute's research projects which benefit from such first-hand knowledge include on-going work on advanced semiconductor devices, MEMS, 3D integration, and photonics."
He added, "The Masdar Institute Micro Fabrication facility is the first of its kind in the UAE and the Institute is planning to make its micro fabrication facilities available to researchers across all UAE universities through collaboration and joint research projects with its researchers."
Serving as a key pillar of innovation and human capital, Masdar Institute remains fundamental to Masdar's core objectives of developing Abu Dhabi's knowledge economy and finding solutions to humanity's toughest challenges such as climate change.
Established as an on-going collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Masdar Institute integrates theory and practice to incubate a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, working to develop the critical thinkers and leaders of tomorrow. With its world-class faculty and top-tier students, the Institute is committed to finding solutions to the challenges of clean energy and climate change through education and research.