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Wayne State aims to become regional hub for nano technology R&D

May 1, 2013

DETROIT– Wayne State University today announced an initiative to increase and diversify microtechnology research at its multimillion dollar Nano Fabrication Core Facility (nFab). The cleanroom lab, which was originally built to focus on automotive applications, has recently been home to a broader set of nano technology research and development by WSU faculty and students. WSU has re-launched the lab and opened it to researchers, students and companies throughout the region, who would otherwise not have access to the rare microfabrication environment with a valuation exceeding approximately $12 million.

“The lab initially focused on the automotive industry but has widened its scope to include biosensors, targeted drug delivery and medical devices,” said nFab Director and WSU Department of Chemistry Professor David Coleman. “Microfabrication is now used in many research fields, from biological micro-electromechanical systems to nano-electrochemechanical systems and from flat-panel displays to solar cells and more. There’s really no limit to how this lab can assist researchers looking to discover and create new things.”

The nFab lab, located in the College of Engineering, was originally established in 2002 thanks to a major contribution from Delphi. Its mission is to create devices that benefit humanity.

The lab provides researchers with three distinct microfabrication services: deposition (the addition of materials), lithography (the defining of materials) and etching (the removal of materials). Cutting-edge processes and equipment include a high-temperature furnace, low pressure chemical vapor deposition (LPCVD), E-beam evaporator, sputtering, photolithography, isotropic wet or dry etching, anisotropic wet or dry etching, and metal lift-off.

“Wayne State University professors and their graduate and undergraduate students — funded by federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation — are constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible by creating new technologies that directly impact people’s lives. nFab helps them make their ideas a reality,” Coleman said.

Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Yong Xu has developed a technology that opens new possibilities for health care and medical applications of electronic devices. Xu’s flexible electronics technology could result in retinal processors that cause less tissue irritation and more comfortable wearable health-monitoring devices, balloon catheters, stents and more.

Xu is only one of Wayne State’s many expert faculty members utilizing the lab.

College of Engineering Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Amar Basu is working on a variety of projects, including one involving environmental sensors for preventing invasive species in the Great Lakes. Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Mark Ming-Cheng hopes to create a robust, chronic neural prosthesis using high-capacity graphene electrodes and biodegradable silicon support to treat a variety of neurological illnesses.

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Parastoo Hashemi’s work developing new micro-electrochemical electrodes for neurological research may have significant implications for those battling depression and other mental disorders. And Assistant Professor of Physics Zhixian Zhou is investigating the correlation of transport properties with edge structure in suspended graphene nanoribbon field effect transistors, which could have possible applications in touch screens, solar cells, fast transistors, gas sensors and lightweight, high-strength materials.

A wide variety of researchers from universities and companies across Michigan and the United States have already begun to take advantage of the state-of-the-art technologies and services available. Graduate and undergraduate programs in engineering, physics and more can hold specialized classes in nFab to provide an introduction to the unique technologies involved.

Researchers from the Karmanos Cancer Institute, H2Scan, General Motors and Argonne National Laboratories have used the lab’s equipment and services to create new technologies. In addition to Coleman, the lab is under the management of Dan Dursin and Bill Funk.

Companies and researchers interested in using nFab should visit my.ilabsolutions.com/service_center/show_external/2964/nano-fabrication-core-facility for registration information, directions on gaining access and hours of operation. Contact Funk at bfunk@eng.wayne.edu with questions.

Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution of higher education offering 370 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 29,000 students. For more information about engineering at Wayne State University, visit engineering.wayne.edu.