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InterFab research facility opens at Southampton

09 Feb 2007

An interdisciplinary fabrication facility at the University of Southampton, UK, will enable world-leading research teams to carry out new areas of optics related research.

The 180 m2 InterFab clean room, which will be used by researchers from the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) and the School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS), has been specially designed for research on photonic circuits and microsystems. The new research facility also provides laboratories for biophotonics, special glass fabrication and optical fiber drawing.

InterFab will act as the main laboratory for micro/nano-fabrication until the university?s state-of-the-art Mountbatten Building becomes operational in mid-2008. It will allow PhD students and postdoctoral researchers to continue hands-on research and rapid prototyping, and replaces some of the lab space that was lost in the devastating fire that destroyed the Mountbatten Building in October 2005.

James Wilkinson of the ORC, who will direct the InterFab, told optics.org: "The wide range of tools available, combined with our expertise in novel materials and devices, will provide an excellent platform for research into photonic and electronic microsystems for IT, communications and the life sciences."

Teams from the ORC will be studying planar lightwave circuits for telecommunications, sensing, novel lasers and nonlinear optical devices, and particle guidance from atoms to stem cells, while ECS researchers will work on microsystems, nanotechnology and intelligent transducers. Applications range from providing tools to understand and treat chronic disease through to monitoring trace levels of pollutants in drinking water and providing low-cost optical components for high-bandwidth fiber-to-the-home systems.

The InterFab comprises facilities similar to those used for integrated circuit fabrication, such as photolithography; thick and thin film deposition; dry and wet etching; diffusion; microscopy, and surface profilometry. The major pieces of equipment in the facility include: thermal and e-beam evaporators; RF sputterer; reactive ion etcher; reactive ion beam etcher; double-sided mask aligner; aligner-bonder; vacuum poling apparatus; tube, box and thick-film furnaces; screen printer, and 2D and 3D surface profilometers.

"Although great resilience has been demonstrated by those affected by the fire, the opening of InterFab will make it easier for researchers to continue their work whilst construction of the new Mountbatten Complex is underway," added David Payne, director of the ORC.

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