MIT Semiconductor Laboratory project gets the green light

MIT Semiconductor Laboratory project gets the green light

Gilbane-Exyte Joint Venture have been awarded a contract by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers  to build a Compound Semiconductor Laboratory – Microsystem Integration Facility at MIT Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts.

The funding for the $279 million building project, which is scheduled to begin this spring, comes from the U.S. Air Force military construction program. The Army Corps of Engineers will manage the building of the 160,000-square-foot, three-story facility, while Lincoln Laboratory will be responsible for installing and calibrating the facility’s specialized microelectronics fabrication equipment.

It was revealed that when the laboratory has been fully constructed and integrated, the facility will enable scientists and engineers to grow, fabricate, and characterize semiconductors made of two or more different elements (known as compound semiconductors) and package specialized heterogeneously integrated electronic prototypes.

The project leaders hope that the capability to integrate different semiconductor material systems and device technologies will enable the creation of customizable microsystems targeting a wide range of applications.

Some of the technologies of special interest will include 3D-integrated focal plane arrays for scientific imaging and surveillance, integrated electro-optical systems for space-based optical communication, superconducting microsystems for integrating quantum information bits (qubits) and advanced 3D-ladar imaging systems. The Army Corp of Engineers hope that the future capabilities of the Semicompound laboratory will be complementary to those of the laboratory’s existing Microelectronics Laboratory (ML), which is currently the U.S. government’s most advanced silicon-based research and prototyping fabrication facility.

The announcement of the new project is the culmination of nearly ten years of planning with the U.S Department of Defense first acknowledging the critical need for Lincoln Laboratory facility modernization in 2014.

Lincoln Laboratory Capital Projects Office (CPO) staff have been hard at work improving the design architecture and engineering of the CSL-MIF over the last four years. The CPO staff decided to adopt a bottom-up design approach that incorporated much input from research staff. Perhaps the two most critical design requirements are related to the control of vibration and contamination as even the smallest vibrations or the tiniest amount of dust particles in the air can interfere with experimental research or device manufacturing. 

The plans revealed that 35,000 square feet of the laboratory (of a total surface area of 160,000 square feet) will be set aside as a high-end clean room space, most of which will contain fewer than 10 particles of 0.5 micrometers or larger per cubic foot of air. For comparison purposes, office space air typically contains more than 1 million dust particles of this size per cubic foot of air.

The clean room has been designed to sit on its own vibration-isolated floor within the building while the floor beneath will contain all of the equipment feeding the clean room, including the vacuum pumps, chemicals, and power supplies. The engineers hope that this setup will mean that operations and maintenance can be performed without contaminating the clean room spaces. This imaginative design is complemented by a floor suspended above the clean room that will house the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment for controlling air flow.