Calit2, Zeiss Center and INRF Join Forces for Innovation

By Erin Knapp

Irvine, Calif., July 23, 2007 -- Since its inception in 1999, the Integrated Nanosystems Research Facility (INRF) at The Henry Samueli School of Engineering at UC Irvine has provided a platform for researchers in traditional technological fields to join together in an integrated, multidisciplinary environment. Based on the vision of Dean Nicolaos G. Alexopoulos, and led by G.P. Li,  professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and biomedical engineering, and now director of Calit2@UCI, the INRF has fostered collaborative research among engineers and scientists from across the UCI campus, neighboring academic and government institutions, and participating companies in the high-tech industry.

UCI clean room 1
Calit2 and the INRF share the same vision,
making for an easy and productive partnership.

Now, the INRF has taken another step towards eliminating barriers to innovation by joining forces with the UCI division of Calit2 and the Carl Zeiss Center of Excellence.

The three-lab collaboration is creating one united micro- and nanotechnology resource facility – a one-stop shop for fabrication and research.

The INRF will continue to offer the inorganic capabilities researchers have come to expect, but the new partnership adds access to micro- and nanosystems resources for organic, biologically based materials, such as those used for biomedical applications. And the Zeiss Center enables all researchers to characterize their work with the center’s three electron-scanning microscopes.

The INRF, which develops and promotes technologies for engineering inorganic nanoscale systems, features an 8,600-square-foot, class-1,000/10,000 clean room facility, including class-100 work areas with major semiconductor fabrication equipment.

The BiON clean room facility at Calit2, which is scheduled for completion this summer, will offer equipment for building and conducting research on micro- and nanosystems comprised of organic materials.

UCI clean room 3
Semiconductors and other nanosystems are constructed in the INRF clean room at UCI.

The Zeiss Center of Excellence, a partnership between Calit2@UCI and Carl Zeiss SMT, a global semiconductor and nanotechnology instrument manufacturer, opened in April 2006.  It contains three state-of-the-art electron microscopes – considered leading-edge technology in their respective fields – which scientists use to build and/or characterize nanosystems, regardless of whether they’re organic or inorganic. The center has become a Southern California regional hub for nanotechnology and biotechnology research, as well as advanced materials development and innovation.   

“This cooperation represents a new step in micro- and nanofabrication for UC Irvine,” said Mark Bachman, associate director of the INRF and coordinator of the back-end integration process among the three centers.  “It enables us to take a leadership position in the area of integrated organic and inorganic micro- and nanosystems research, and will be a great resource for the campus, Orange County and Southern California.”

Bachman explained that because the INRF and Calit2 @UCI share the same vision for leadership in advanced technology development, and their missions and strengths complement each other, they can partner easily to encourage innovation.

Each of the three centers will maintain its own focus and agenda, but the collaboration will enhance access and coordination among them. Organization, information technology, billing and a consistent set of policies will be merged into one infrastructure. To facilitate use, a “one-pass” system that allows access to all sites with just one key will enable faculty, researchers and affiliated industry to move seamlessly from one center to another. 

  “The Henry Samueli School of Engineering prides itself on continually raising the level of excellence in engineering education and research, and I look forward to the integration of three outstanding centers,” said Alexopoulos. “This will continue to encourage innovative research, and support student and faculty technological advancements. Our school is an enthusiastic partner with Calit2, and the combination of these centers is truly dynamic, supporting and promoting the spirit of interdisciplinary collaboration.”

“Lowering barriers to innovation and providing easy access to technology and research is important to all of these centers,” addedI NRF and Calit2 Director Li.  “We want to empower our researchers and bring faculty from engineering, life sciences and physical sciences together to work on new projects.”