$4.5 million Facility will Further Nanotech Research


$4.5 million Facility will Further Nanotech Research


Clean Room
Photo courtesy of the College of Engineering.

The University of Texas at El Paso celebrated the grand opening of its new Nanofabrication Facility on Thursday, Sept. 18. After a ribbon cutting ceremony, students, faculty, staff and members of the community had the opportunity to tour the space.

Nicknamed "the clean room," the $4.5 million facility provides a clean environment for engineers to conduct delicate nanotechnology research, which requires working with extremely small materials that are easily damaged by dust and other particles.

"What the clean room does is similar to the way you think of an operating room: you need to clear out all the microbes to have a really clean environment for the patient," said David Zubia, Ph.D., associate professor of electrical engineering. "Here, it's a really clean environment for the things we're making."

Prior to entering the rooms, students and faculty are required to clean their shoes, and suit up in full-body protective gowns, which include gloves, headpieces and booties. The special attire helps contain stray particles that typically fall from an individual's hair, skin and clothing. Additional air filters in the facility help remove any dust that may be floating around.

"Having a facility that allows us to work in the nanoscale world is essential to compete and to contribute to advances," said Richard Schoephoerster, Ph.D., dean of the College of Engineering. "The nanofabrication facility is yet another major step in our journey to Tier One status. Most of the major advances in science and engineering are now coming by the integration of nanoscale parts and materials with micro-and macroscale materials and devices." UTEP researchers are currently using the clean room to increase the efficiency of solar cells in converting sunlight to electricity, and to create a new type of digital memory, such as a flash drive, with more storage capacity. They are also working with the Center for Energy Efficient Electronics Science to develop computer components that use less power.

The center was made possible by contributions from The University of Texas at El Paso, the Texas Instruments Foundation and The University of Texas System.