PULLMAN – If your professional life involves things like microfluidics, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) devices or carbon nanotubes, Joshah Jennings invites you to give the WSU cleanroom a try. Directed by the Center for Materials Research, the cleanroom is a nonprofit, microfabrication laboratory offering the use of high-end equipment and processes in a controlled environment.
Jennings, cleanroom engineer, said the class-1000 facility — located in the Engineering, Teaching and Research Laboratory — is available for both academic and private industry use. There are about 19 people using the facility; Jennings would like to see that number double.
“The majority (of users) are materials science Ph.D. students, but we also have users in the biomedical/bioscience fields and in chemical engineering,” he said.
Often used in manufacturing and scientific research, cleanrooms actively regulate levels of laboratory pollutants such as dust, airborne microbes, aerosols and chemical vapors. Dust particles can cause contamination and imperfections on the micron scale for a number of processes.
“A 5-micron array of carbon nanotube turfs, for example, could be completely destroyed by one dust particle,” Jennings said.
In the WSU cleanroom, filtration systems and positive pressure are used to hold environmental contaminants to 1,000 particles or fewer per cubic foot. In addition, only certain items are allowed in the room, such as lint-free paper and paper towels. Researchers entering the cleanroom must suit up in surgical-like “bunny suits” to prevent skin cells and hair from falling onto the delicate projects.
Built in 2005, the cleanroom is equipped with 15 machines that offer a range of processes, from photolithography and wire bonding to thin films and etching.