Nano-bio workshop participants get tour of nanoscale manufacturing center

Boston, MA. The Nano-Bio Manufacturing Consortium (NBMC)—which describes itself as operating at the confluence of nanotechnology, biotechnology, advanced manufacturing, flexible hybrid electronics, and printed electronics—held a workshop Friday October 17 at Northeastern University.

The event was preceded by a Thursday afternoon tour of Northeastern’s George J. Kostas Nanoscale Technology and Manufacturing Research Center. Sivasubramanian Somu, research associate professor at Northeastern, welcomed attendees to the tour by explaining that if you want to make money from nanotechnology-based products, you have to make them cheap.

But, he said, nanotechnology presents significant challenges. You can’t see nanostructures by eye, he explained—you need a million-dollar instrument. He asked, rhetorically, how to produce such structures on a large scale? Northeastern has developed what Somu called a rubber-stamp approach, which lets you replicate a design over and over on flexible or hard substrates—at room temperature and pressure. The center is applying its capability to electronics, sensors, energy storage, and what Somu called “materials by design.”

With respect to energy storage, he said, only about 10% of the weight of a typical laptop battery is active material that stores energy. Nanomaterials can improve that percentage.

The center on the Northeastern campus offers a class 10 clean room. No other university in the northeast has one, Somu said—“not even MIT and Harvard.” The center also has a variety of instruments for spectroscopy, atomic force microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, surface profiling, spectrum analysis, and nanomanipulation.

Specific equipment available at the center for film deposition includes a Parylene coater, Perkin Elmer and MRC 8667 sputtering systems, an electron beam evaporation system, an oxidation furnace, prefurnace cleaning stations, electroplating stations, nanoparticle assembly probe stations, a fluorescent microscope, and a Zygo 3-D optical profiler.

For testing, imaging, and characterization, the center offers a Dektak (Veeco) 3ST surface profiler, a Carl Zeiss SUPRA25 field-emission SEM with NPGS (nanometer pattern-generation system) sub-100-nm e-beam lithography, a PGT energy-dispersive spectrum analyzer, a Zyvex S100 nanomanipulator system, a PSIA XE-150 AFM, a JEOL UHV AFM, and a Quesant Q-Scope AFM.

The center also includes a fully outfitted wet chemistry/test facility that includes equipment such as a HORIBA Jobin Yvon LabRam 800 Raman spectroscopy system, which was installed for characterization of (among other things) carbon nanotubes.

A separate facility in Burlington, MA (not visited during the Thursday afternoon tour), can assist in scaling up production.

In addition to serving the Northeastern community, The Kostas Center, Somu said, can help large companies or small entrepreneurs get started. “Kostas is open to all users,” he said. “We want more users to come and reap the benefit.”

Visit www.kostas.neu.edu for further information.

Update: See related article “Sweat the details? Nano-bio consortium gets the details from sweat.”

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