The Microfabrication Group has spent the last three years focusing on one key activity: successfully moving into the new facility in the Katharine Blodgett Gebbie Laboratory. The Boulder MicroFabrication Facility (BMF) plays a major role in the scientific output of the NIST, Boulder campus. Roughly 60% of all the research on site passes through the BMF in one critical way or another.
The Boulder cleanroom was originally located in Wing 1 of Building 1 and was started in 1971 as a small cleanroom for work on picosecond detectors and superconducting voltage standards. This space grew organically over the next 41 years to occupy 5,000 gross square feet of class 100 clean space.
A new 18,000 gross square foot cleanroom was part of the new Precision Measurement Laboratory (PML) building. The PML was handed over to NIST in February 2012 with the cleanroom itself handed over in July 2012. The Building 1 cleanroom was closed in March 2012 and all the tooling moved up to the PML cleanroom. Working with the construction contractors NIST staff got the tools placed and installed. By July the critical photolithography process was up and running. The first complex multilayer chips (more than ten photolithography layers) were completed by the end of October 2012. These chips were SQUID multiplexing amplifiers delivered to the BICEP3 telescope located at the South Pole. From the shutdown of the Wing 1 clean room until the new Facility was provisionally operational took only 7 months. This is remarkably fast by research cleanroom standards and represents the combined efforts of the entire cleanroom user community coming together to make happen.
The move to a new facility, which is nearly four times as large as the previous one, brought a whole host of new issues. The biggest issue was understanding the basic functions of key cleanroom systems, including air handling and pressure control, temperature and humidity control and the safety infrastructure. The cleanroom was also the recipient of 10 new fabrication tools and 23 new wet benches through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Key among these was a new i-line stepper and a new pattern generator, the core photolithography tools of the Facility. Installation, commissioning, and process development in all these new tools was a major undertaking. Work is continuing to complete the commissioning of the new Facility and the processing tools. At the same time, the Facility continues to advance, with the addition of new processing capabilities and tools, and the steady increase in the number of users of the Facility.