IEST carries contamination-control technology firmly into 2006


By John Haystead

Since its founding in 1953, the Institute of Environmental Sciences & Technology (IEST) has played a critical role in identifying and establishing standards for effective contamination-control practices, processes and environments. Now, over fifty years later, however, the organization is undertaking perhaps its broadest, and most important, responsibility yet-helping to develop global standards for the advancement of nanotechnology-based products and technologies.

Julie Kendrick is executive director of the IEST.
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IEST will be a voting member of the ANSI-accredited U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to the newly formed ISO Technical Committee 229 for nanotechnology disciplines. The ISO/TC 229 Nanotechnologies Committee will produce standards for classification, terminology and nomenclature, basic metrology, calibration and certification, and environmental issues for nanotechnology-scale (less than 100 nm) devices and materials.

As noted by IEST Executive Director Julie Kendrick, “Being selected as a founding member of the TAG to this technical committee really highlights not only the important role of the IEST, but also the importance of the overall field of contamination control.” This is a sentiment echoed by Dr. David Ensor, IEST delegate to the U.S. TAG: “As the leading organization addressing issues connected with contamination control, IEST is in a unique position to contribute its expertise in developing international standards for controlled environments to anticipate the unique needs of the emerging nanotechnology industry.”

Interestingly, however, despite its longstanding contribution and commitment to the advancement of contamination-control technology, the IEST has often remained unrecognized or unappreciated by many of the scientists, engineers and technicians who make use of its work on an almost daily basis.

Yet, the IEST’s important new role in the nanotechnologies is really only a natural progression from its ongoing responsibilities as the secretariat of ISO/TC 209, Cleanrooms and Associated Controlled Environments, and as administrator of the U.S. TAG to ISO/TC 209, which is responsible for establishing worldwide standards for cleanrooms.

In this capacity, IEST has published numerous international standards documents including ANSI/IEST/ISO 14644, Cleanrooms and Associated Controlled Environments; and has established the airborne particulate cleanliness classes for particle sizes ranging from 0.1 to 5 μm.

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In fact, through its some forty working groups (WGs) within seven Standards and Practices Committees (SPCs) (see Table 1), the Contamination Control Division of the IEST has formulated and published a wide range of critical, internationally recognized recommended practices (RPs).

Dr. Tengfang (Tim) Xu is technical vice president of the IEST’s Contamination Control Division.
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Dr. Tengfang (Tim) Xu, program manager for Berkeley National Laboratory’s Building Technologies Department (Berkeley, Calif.), and technical vice president of the IEST’s Contamination Control Division, says this important work will continue as the IEST moves forward. Since being elected to the IEST post in July 2004, Xu says he’s given particular attention to the need to expand and facilitate the RP development process. “Sometimes the process has tended to be slow, in some cases taking a decade or more to develop a document. The goal is to establish a routine of bringing revised RP versions forward every three years.”

To aid in this process, Xu says broader participation is needed within the WGs. “In addition to professionals from the contamination-control industry, we’re looking for people representative of the entire user industry community including pharmaceuticals, biotech, semiconductor, as well as healthcare facilities.” Xu sees healthcare facility requirements, in particular, as an area that is “underexplored.”

Xu says he encourages both existing IEST members and anyone considering joining the association to become active in the WG meetings and an active participant in helping to develop the RPs.

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Nanotechnologies will represent the newest Standards and Practices Committee (SPC-7) of the IEST, and already five working groups have been formed within it (see Table 2). Xu says SPC-7 is already considered a “very special committee” within IEST (with ISO’s TC229 Committee on a parallel with ISO/TC209) and could perhaps ultimately reach its own divisional status within the IEST.

Beyond RPs and working groups, the IEST is also actively pursuing other initiatives and activities. As described by IEST communications vice president Chuck Berndt, of C.W. Berndt Associates, “The overall mission of the IEST is education, and we accomplish this in a number of ways-through the guidelines, standards and practices we develop, but also through our educational forums (classroom and online) as well as our annual technical meetings.” As part of its regular activities, IEST sponsors technical conferences, workshops, courses and exhibitions, including ESTECH, the IEST’s annual technical meeting. The 52nd such meeting-ESTECH 2006, “New Beginnings”-will be held May 7-10 at the Hyatt Regency Phoenix (Phoenix, Ariz.).

Another important educational vehicle is the “Online Journal of the IEST.” The Online Journal contains peer-reviewed technical papers and “TechTalk” articles related to the fields of contamination control; design, test, and evaluation; and product reliability. Says Kendrick, “Sometimes we seem to be our own best-kept secret, but we see the Online Journal as a way to use the Internet to reach out to a broader universe of people. We also recognize that many college students and other researchers now use the internet as their primary research tool, and by being online, our resources are available to them 24/7.”

In addition to new content, Kendrick says they also plan to begin posting previously published material into an Online Journal archive. The expectation is to post at least ten years of published material online per year (starting with the most recent material), ultimately representing a complete online archive dating to 1959. “As such,” says Kendrick, “it will provide a permanent record of progress in the science and technology of the environmental sciences.”

Ultimately, Kendrick says the biggest educational benefit that IEST provides is the ability to access experts in the field. “We receive dozens of questions each week via phone or e-mail from people looking for information and guidance, and we connect them to the people we know will have expertise relevant to their needs. Many of these are IEST instructors, fellows, and WG chairs and delegates.”

Chuck Berndt is the communications vice president of the IEST.
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All indications are that 2006 will be a busy year for the IEST, and will mark a new milestone in the advancement of contamination-control technology. It would seem that now would be a good time for interested parties to become active in helping set the direction and pace of that advancement. According to Berndt, that’s fine with IEST. “Our message is come and join us. Get involved. Have your say. You’ll be helping your career, your company and your industry exponentially. When you get involved with your trade organizations and technical societies, it’s good for everyone.”

Anyone interested in joining an IEST working group or obtaining more information about the IEST can visit the organization’s Web site at -JSH