Large Nanofacility at the University of Chicago


Large Nanofacility at the University of Chicago

The Pritzker Foundation provided a generous  a $15 million gift to develop the 10,000 square foot large nanofacility for the University of Chicago. The National Science Foundation provided an additional $5 million to establish the Soft and Hybrid Nanotechnology Experimental Resource, a partnership between UChicago and Northwestern University. The NSF grant provides funding for support staff and training for external industrial and academic users who seek to develop nanostructure fabrication capabilities at the Pritzker nanofacility and at Northwestern.

The Nanofacility is an ISO Class 5 cleanroom that specializes in advanced lithographic processing of hard and soft materials.

Large Nanofacility

Large Nanofacility

The large nanofacility is a class 5 cleanroom, providing a controlled environment to house the careful research and development of nanotechnologies, an undertaking that requires precise environmental control and cleanliness protocol. The cleanroom provides cleanroom apparel, chemicals, source materials for thin film processes, boxes for storage, cleanroom notebooks, and other small ancillaries as part of the recharge rate.  Safety procedures and systems are in place to ensure a safe working environment.  Training on all systems is required to use our large nanofacility.

“Today’s clean room is the machine shop of our time,” says Awschalom. “A generation ago it was all about state-of-the-art mills, lathes, making very tiny structures with wire-cutting tools. Today it’s the nanofabrication facility and advanced etching techniques.” But launching new technological products requires the involvement of industry, he notes. “Universities are fantastic at generating creative concepts and ideas and developing proof-of-concept prototypes. To transition these ideas into society, it will be vital to engage the expertise of startup companies and industry.”

The Pritzker Nanofacility team is committed to making safety a core value

Nanofacility users will complete training before using the cleanroom. They will pay an hourly fee for access, and may pay additional fees for the use of specific tools and equipment. The proceeds go to support the facility’s operations.

“Our plans are that this large nanofacility will eventually be open 24/7, meaning that it will have access for graduate students as well as external users any time of the day or night,” Cleland says. “Industrial users will be an important part of our user base, and they will also tie in our graduate students to the industrial efforts that are related to their research.”

Pritzker Nanofabrication Facility

About the PNF

The heart of the PNF is our ISO Class 5 cleanroom which contains a suite of equipment and tools for advanced lithographic processing of both soft and hard materials. At the PNF we are dedicated to supporting cutting edge research by accomodating users interested in processing unusual types, shapes and sizes of substrate but, for the less adventurous, we also accomodate conventional wafer-based processing. All of our tools have the capability to handle a broad range of substrate sizes, from piece parts up to 150 mm.

The PNF is open to all trained users from any discipline with equal access available to UChicago and external users. In order to access the PNF all users must complete facility and safety training, as well as individual tool trainings. The PNF utilizes a fee for use structure to cover access as well as tool and equipment usage.