State-of-the-art cleanrooms designed for interactive nanotech research
BY STEVE SMITH
ITHACA, N.Y.—Duffield Hall, a new state-of-the-art nanotechnology research and teaching facility at Cornell University, has increased the university's nanofabrication space by 50 percent and is providing updated accommodations for the renowned Nanoscale Science and Technology Facility (CNF; formerly known as the Cornell Nanofabrication Facility).
Billed as one of the country's most sophisticated nanotech research and training facilities, the 153,000-square-foot Duffield Hall has been constructed for research interaction and for flexibility to respond to future trends in engineering research (such as the ability to quickly convert existing cleanroom and laboratory spaces). The university expects its R&D facility will attract graduate students and researchers from around the world.
Duffield Hall's two floors of Class 1000 cleanroom labs are crafted to support research in electronic, photonic, microelectromechanical and biotech devices, as well as advanced materials processing. It serves as a central resource for Cornell's various nano- technology and materials development groups that previously were scattered throughout the campus (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Class 1000 cleanroom and lab space in Duffield Hall is designed for integrated research in a variety of nanotech disciplines.
The CNF, the nation's oldest federally sponsored nanotech center, now calls Duffield Hall its home after being housed for nearly two decades in adjacent Knight Laboratory. Also relocating to Duffield is the college's Nanobiotechnology Center. The two "clean" centers are located in adjacent isolated areas.
A nanocharacterization suite, constructed to minimize vibration and electro-magnetic fields, features three powerful electron microscopes. Graduate student offices are laid out in an "open" design, intended for interaction and collaboration on research.
McCarthy Building Companies (St. Louis, Mo.; www.mccarthy.com) teamed with leading education construction company Welliver McGuire (Elmira, N.Y.; www.-welliver-mcguire.com) in building four types of laboratories for the new facility, including wet, dry, specialty and the 20,000-square-foot Class 1000 cleanroom.
In addition to the intent to promote interaction among researchers, Duffield Hall has been designed with a high-ceilinged, windowed central atrium so that passers-by can observe various research processes through tinted windows that protect light-sensitive experiments.
During construction, a complex HVAC system was built to circulate 10x to 20x the amount of air flowing through a typical laboratory and then through HEPA filters to trap dust particles. Contractors followed cleanroom construction protocols from the project's earliest stages. For example, construction workers used a HEPA filter vacuum system during welding procedures, and continually wiped down all construction tools and materials before entering lab areas. Workers were gowned in protective clothing as the project neared completion.
Striving to ensure cleanliness in the lab throughout the construction process, each tool to be installed was cleaned with an alcohol-based solution before being brought into the cleanroom by gowned contractors. Joining several new tools, existing equipment from the Knight Laboratory cleanroom was moved to Duffield Hall through a temporary clean environment corridor that connected the two facilities.
"The existing CNF had to be operational during construction," explains Eric Torkildson, project manager at McCarthy Building Companies. "We knew constructing right next door to the fully operational research facility [Knight Laboratory] would be a challenge, given the stringent vibration-control demands of nanofabrication research. However, through regular meetings with Cornell staff, advance planning and a sensitive vibration monitoring system, we were able to successfully avoid disruptions to students, staff and the CNF operations."
To accommodate the addition of Duffield Hall, the project also included a redesign of the campus' Pew Engineering Quadrangle. A new atrium connects Duffield Hall with the neighboring engineering buildings, and year-round meeting and gathering space for students, faculty and staff have also been added.